(not my own picture)
I first stumbled across this word while reading a blog. I read that they travel long distances just to be at family events, no excuses…a tremendous bond that connects them.
It was intriguing, I had no idea who or what they were. So I started researching a bit. What I found out was astounding…I am not a fan of British phrases, but GOBSMACKED was something that popped into my mind!
Coincidentally, in one of my classes we are required to give a 12-15 minute presentation on a topic of our choice: Hmong Hill People is what I picked.
An innocent term such as nomadic tribe, gives rise to an idea of indigenous peaceful people, living a bit behind time – pretty much in an environment that knows no haste, stress or violence.
The Hmong lived in small village communities in the Highlands of North Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and South China. They built their homes for short term usage, just for a few years before they moved on and settled somewhere else. They planted crops of rice, corn, soy and fruits and kept a few chicken and pigs. They also participated in the opium trade(planting poppies) and sold coffin-wood, until both were prohibited. The differences between the two main tribes are especially visible in their traditional dress. The WHITE Hmong women wear black pants, with beautifully embroidered aprons and black turbans. The BLUE Hmong -Green as they call themselves, wear embroidered indigo skirts and black velvet shirts, their hair tied up. Both costumes are adorned with silver jewellery. As most Hunter-Gatherer cultures they are nature oriented. They are torn btween Shamansism, Ancestry Worship and Christianity, which arrived in Indochina in the late 18th century via their French Colonial Rulers.
So far, so good! Right in tune with the picture of a people who live in harmony with nature and their neighbors.
Until the proverbial shit hit the fan…
In the early 60ies the CIA recruited the Hmong to help fight the onslaught of communism in the area.
While the first moving pictures of the war in Vietnam occupied prime time T.V. for the first time in history and the spirits of the world’s youth ignited against the horrors of war and an anti war movement came to life, a much more sinister scheme was taking shape in neighboring Laos.
It turned out to be the biggest military operation in modern history. Conducted by the CIA, a test run for wars to come. While photographers and reporters were busy capturing the grotesque monstrosity in Vietnam, this abominable exploit was taking place without the knowledge of the American president, public and the whole world.
More than 40,000 were on the payroll until 1975 in Laos. Between 1964 and 1973 the CIA built and operated a secret air base called Long Cheng in the middle of the jungle in Laos. It was not marked on any maps and the village next to it swelled to one of the major cities in the region, reaching a population of almost 100,000! It was a place of Hollywood movie proportions, a playground for the CIA, secret agents from all over the world, businessmen and all the businesses they attract to be entertained and of course thousands of soldiers. To finance this secret war, drug & weapons trade reached incomprehensible magnitude. The hill tribes in their small villages were expected to make available the men and grow poppies in return for rice. As the years went by and the death toll grew, the number of grown men diminished and more and more boys were sent to replace them. Exposing the remaining villagers to hunger and not just the terrors of the war.
The CIA trained pilots and soldiers, dressed and supplied them with the equipment. They hand-picked a Hmong general, Vang Pao, to lead the hill tribe troops.
In those 9 years in the Laotian Jungle 2.1 Million tons of bombs were dropped on the area. Cluster bombs and Agent Orange(from yours truly – MONSANTO) devastated the country side. To give some idea of the proportions, just what 2.1 Million tons are, that was more than was dropped over Germany and Japan together in WW II! All this damage to stop the supplies for the Vietcong coming in from China and to fight the communist rebells inside Laos.
Needless to say, when Saigon was captured in April 1975 by the Vietcong, Americans admitted defeat and pulled out of Vietnam. They also left the jungle of Laos and the Hmong. That fateful decision to become allies is something they are still paying for today.
Thirty-eight years later they are still a doomed people. More than a 100,000 Hmong have died either as a direct consequence of the war, its repercussions and retributions. The few that were granted entrance visas to the United States for their service to the CIA are the lucky ones. The rest remain targets of at least three of the four Nations in South East Asia. In Thailand, they subsist mostly in work camps and are viewed as illegal work-migrants, with no rights nor claims to medical attention. Doctors without Borders pulled out of Thailand in 2011 after a 35 year long presence, because they were not granted the freedom to give the Hmong medical treatment. Thailand frequently deports Hmong to Laos, where they vanish into jail like compounds, never to be seen or heard of again.
None of the International Organizations are granted the right to inspect or visit.
In Laos, the remaining free Hmong are hunted down and massacred to this day.
China, Vietnam and Laos refuse to recognize them as an official ethnic group.
The United Nations to date, can not actually grant them Human Rights nor give them any official Refugee status.
The “efforts” of the Western World to improve the conditions of other Nations or ethnic groups does not always bring about the intended progress nor positive results. Often the collaboration brings far larger problems, danger, misery and death.
From this point of view, the fate of the Hmong stands for the fate of many others. Especially, the use of the so-called “civilian staff”, becomes a predicament when the foreign military depart. Whatever their purpose in the country may have been, be it as Occupier, as Liberator or as Observers who have hired locals as translators or for cheap maintenance labor, or trained them as soldiers and policemen, is of no consequential importance. The dangers which these people and their families face, cannot be put aside with an indemnity(financial compensation). It is not the job or the position, which is lost with the withdrawal of the troops, but their ability to continue their lives peacefully. This chance no longer exists – without the protection or the presence of the foreign army.
All International Security Assistance Forces inside Afghanistan today will have to deal with this problem.
Thousands of Afghanis are in the service of America, England, Canada and NATO countries, amongst them- Germany. Those locals and all their kin, young and old – are seen already as traitors and collaborators. Their fates have been sealed. They will be stalked, hunted and killed. They do not stand a chance unless some alternative efforts are made to prevent this from happening.
Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, as a sub-theme on the War on Terror, presumes success. How can this be achieved by exposing the locals to such risks, which have nothing to do with freedom nor endurance when your life is threatened.
How can you bring freedom while armed with a gun?
Enduring freedom can only be brought about when we arm all people with books!
Education is the only road to freedom!