University of Minnesota
Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies


  • Cy Thao: The Hmong Genocide and Immigration :
  • Part 2

    Cy Thao: The Hmong Genocide and Immigration - Part 2

    mountains of laos

    #13. In the mountains of Laos the untamed jungles were infested with man-eating tigers. The Hmong had to trap and kill many tigers before it was safe to live there. Fields had to be cleared for housing and farming.

    cultivating opium

    #14. Laos was already under the control of the French. The French needed money to run their colony. Opium was a great cash crop for the French. Since the Hmong lived on land that was good for cultivating opium, they were encouraged to grow as much opium as possible. When collecting taxes the French preferred opium to cash.


    #15. The French treated the Hmong poorly and collected heavy taxes, while giving local control to the Laotians. Due to this harsh and unfair treatment, the Hmong rebelled. The French, in their arrogance, couldn't understand why the Hmong rebelled. They called the rebellion "The Mad Man's War."

    homemade cannons

    #16. To fight the well-equipped French army, the Hmong made homemade cannons out of wood. They lured the French soldiers into the middle of an empty village using a shaman. Once in position, the Hmong fired the homemade cannons killing many French soldiers.

    fighting methods

    #17. The Hmong also used methods that they had mastered while fighting in China. They would lure the enemy into gorges and then roll rocks down the mountain, burying many French alive.

    new year celebration

    #18. After the harvest season each village would set a date for the New Year celebrations. For three days people did nothing but feast and participate in the New Year celebrations. This was the time for young people to meet and hopefully find a mate.


    #19. The Hmong lost the rebellion but not the cause. After the war the French appointed Hmong officials to handle local affairs. Hmong were given land to live on and farm in the low lands.


    #20. During the New Year celebrations one activitiy was to have bulls fight. All the villagers would come out to see the brutal event. If a bull died, the villagers would get a free feast.


    #21. In fear of a communist takeover of the world, America started sending "advisers" to Southeast Asia to prevent the domino effect." The Hmong were recruited to become America's foot soldiers in Laos in their fight against communism.

    the secret war

    #22. The "Secret War" lasted 15 years. The Hmong had an army of 30,000 soldiers to fight for America. Clan rivalry also sent a quarter of the Hmong population to the communist side. Towards the end of the war many of the Hmong soldiers were as young as 11 years old because most of the grown men had died.

    fighter planes

    #23. Before the war the majority of the Hmong were just simple farmers. Many had never seen a vehicle before. During the war, the Hmong quickly learned to use modern technology. Many excelled at it. One of the best fighter pilots in the world was Lee Lue, the fearless Hmong pilot who logged over 500 missions before he was shot down. As a pilot he flew two to three missions per day. Most American pilots went home after logging 100 sorties.

    end of the war

    #24. When America left Saigon, they packed up and left Laos too. The Hmong were left to fend for themselves. On May 14, 1975, the last C46 took the last of the Hmong military officers to Thailand. This marked the final end of the "Secret War."


    #25. The people, fearing for their lives, also left Long Cheng, the CIA secret base. They headed toward Vientiane the capital city. Before reaching Vientiane they had to cross a river. At the river a local officer, also a Hmong, took soldiers to the bridge where the people were crossing. There he urged the Hmong people to return to their homes. The people refused and the soldiers opened fire, killing many.

    communist massacres

    #26. The communist soldiers came to Hmong villages and massacred whole villages. Women were raped, men tortured, and babies slammed into objects or the ground. After ravaging the village the soldiers dismembered the corpses.

    yellow rain

    #27. To speed up the genocide, the communists sprayed chemicals on villages. People, animals, and crops were wiped out. We called this chemical Yellow Rain."

    fleeing to Thailand

    #28. With the communists committing genocide against the Hmong, the people left Laos. Usually whole villages would leave together, with as many as 5,000. Only half would ever make it across to Thailand.

    in the jungle

    #29. The Hmong people were no longer safe in Laos, now that the communists took over. Trying to elude the communist soldiers many people spent anywhere fromseveral months in the jungle to a year before ever reaching the Mekong River. Food would run out, so people had to eat whatever they could find. People ate roots, barks, and leaves. Many people died from starvation.

    Phu Bia Mountain

    #30. As a last resort the former Hmong CIA army picked up their arms and banded together to defend themselves on Phu Bia Mountain. There the communist army slaughtered the Hmong.

    hmong fighting hmong

    #31. At the end of the war many of the old soldiers became ruthless warlords in areas that the communists do not control yet. Anyone accused of being a communist sympathizer was executed. Many went after their neighbors to settle old disputes. This time it was Hmong executing Hmong. Others became bandits to rob and kill other Hmong people who were trying to flee the communists.

    reaching the mekong

    #32. Reaching the Mekong River, the border between Laos and Thailand, was very difficult. After coming close many never reached the river. Those that had made it across tell stories of seeing babies trying to nurse on rotting corpses not knowing that their mother is already dead.