University of Minnesota
Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies


  • Cy Thao: The Hmong Genocide and Immigration :
  • Part 3

    Cy Thao: The Hmong Genocide and Immigration - Part 3

    crossing the river

    #33. To cross the river people blew up plastic bags or made bamboo rafts. Those that had money hired Thai boaters to take them across. After already receiving the payments, the boaters dump the boats in the middle of the river killing everyone while he swam to shore. Once across some of the people were forced by the Thai police to turn back to Laos.

    refugee camp

    #34. If you made it across the river, Thai officials take you to a refugee camp to register. Although the refugee camps are a lot better, Thai police often abuse the refugees' human rights.


    #55. We spent a lot of time waiting. Every other day we waited for the UN ration truck to deliver food. At night we waited for the water pump to open so we can fetch water for cooking and bathing. Some people waited for their names to appear on the list to come to America. Others are still waiting for Laos to get better so they can go back home. Some just simply wait because that's all they know.


    #36. Water was in short supply so it was a welcoming sight when it rains. Instead of running for shelter the kids take out the soap and take a cool rain shower. While many of the kids were clueless to the hopeless situation of the refugee camps, many of the adults simply gave up hope of a normal life. Funerals were a daily event. Being sick was the rule.

    bus to america

    #37. Those that passed the test had permission to come to America. Those that had sponsors got to board the bus to America." It was a time of sadness and uncertainty, more than happiness or joy. We only knew America as a word. No one had a clue to what America looked like.


    #38. AMERICA! The land of opportunities and freedom. To the new arrivals it was the land of uncertainty, confusion, and fear. Many ended up in the "projects" where the government housed the poor. Life there was hard. Many of the criminals preyed on the scared refugees. What a rude awakening for us.


    #39. Finding jobs for unskilled refugees with no English was impossible. Almost all the refugees depended on federal support to survive.lands.


    #40. Prior to America most of the children have never been in a school. Fitting in was impossible. The Hmong children stood out like a sore thumb. We were poor, we looked different and we did not speak English. We were easy targets for the school bullies. Sometimes we fight back.


    #41. After acquiring enough English skills from attending night schools, many of the parents found minimum wage jobs doing assembly-line work. Our parents worked 14-16 hours per day but were still poor.

    boy scouts

    #42. The Boy Scouts of America was a natural fit for the Hmong boys. We get to learn about America in a safe environment. We also get to explore the woods like our parents use to do back in Laos.

    keeping culture alive

    #43. To keep the culture alive we have to adapt. Instead of celebrating the New Year outdoor and after the harvest season, we celebrate it during American holidays or weekends because it is the only time we can get off from work.

    new years

    #44. The New Year not only changed from outdoor to indoor, but many of the activities were added while others disappeared. The ceremonies and bull fights have been replaced by beauty pageants and dance contests.

    sports festival

    #45. A New festivals were created so families can still gather outside like back in Laos.


    #46. Not only the culture changed, the children changed. We were once forced by the Chinese to divide into groups. Now the Hmong children willingly divide each other into groups, wearing different colors, and killing each other.

    changing adults

    #47. Not only the children are changing, many of the adults also are changing. Under pressure and anxiety of becoming more American, many tragedies erupted.  Older Hmong start committing suicides out of loneliness. The middle-age Hmong kill their whole family before taking their own lives.

    positive effects

    #48. 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.

    taking root

    #49. After 25 years of being in America, our communities are beginning to take root. The children are getting a first rate education. Opportunities are beginning to open up. Hmong businesses are popping up everywhere, It's a sign that we will make it here too.

    migration across the world

    #50. 5,000 years ago the Hmong lived on the basin of the Yellow River. Today the trail of the Hmong migration goes through China, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Burma, South America, France, Australia, Canada, and America. Where the trail leads to, no one knows.