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The majority of Hmong living in the United States today are those who came directly from Laos or via Thai refugee camps.Laos covers about ninety-one thousand square miles, an area similar to that of the United Kingdom or slightly larger than Utah.In Laos, the Hmong lived separately from the Lao people.During the period of French colonialism in SE Asia, the French relied on the Hmong for their skills in weaponry and military service.Through pleas for asylum brought by Hmong human rights groups in the U.
From 1963-1975 during the Vietnam War and the CIA's secret war in Laos, the Hmong were recruited for their military skill and trained and fought on the side of the United States.
The CIA coordinated efforts against Laotian Communists, the Pathet Lao, in partnership with Hmong military leader General Vang Pao and the Royal Lao Government. did not fully acknowledge the Hmong role in the war until the early 1980s.
Former CIA Director Colby credited Hmong with saving thousands of U. soldiers by blocking the North Vietnamese from extending the Ho Chi Minh Trail into Laos. In 1975, many Hmong-Lao fled to Thailand as refugees, escaping the persecution and retaliation of the Lao communist government.
Thousands of Hmong tried to escape from Laos across the Mekong River into Thailand. Hmong who survived the journey settled in refugee camps in Thailand.
Conditions in the camps were horrible; there was little food, sanitation or clean water. The first Hmong refugees began arriving in the US in late 1975, mostly sponsored by religious groups and non-profit organizations.