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June 15, 2007

An Open Letter from Shwaw Vang on the Vang Pao Elementary School

Former Madison School Board Member Shwaw Vang, via Kristian Knutsen:

The Board of Education will discuss reconsidering its decision to name the new elementary school after General Vang Pao because Vang Pao has been charged with a plot to overthrow a foreign country. Since the fall of the Laos monarchy and democracy in 1975, the government of Laos, one of the most oppressive communist regimes in the world, killed the King of Laos and has murdered and continues to murder thousands of Hmong people and use chemical weapons on them.

Yet the United States government and the United Nations have ignored these murders of former American allies 32 years. While not condoning the charges as stated in the indictment, I want this community to know and to understand the horrors those thousands of Hmong people trapped in Laos face even while we debate this name issue. Hmong Americans cannot leave those who were left behind in Laos to be hunted, murdered, and killed by chemical warfare.

Although Vang Pao has not been convicted, those who opposed the Vang Pao name because of dubious allegations claim they have been vindicated. But the indictment has nothing to do with their original objections. However, now that the Board has been convinced that it needs to reconsider the name, I believe this is a good time to invite the broader community to also consider other MMSD schools named after people who have tainted history.

Shwaw makes some excellent points. Much more on the Vang Pao Elementary School here. Clusty search on Vang Pao. Andrew Burke on Laos "eco-tourism" and a recent abduction. Monica Davey takes a look at Vang Pao's arrest:
Cy Thao, 35, a Minnesota state representative, one of the few Hmong-Americans serving in a state legislature, said many of the older generation felt confused, even betrayed.

“For them, too, his arrest signals the end of an opportunity for them to ever go home to a free Laos,” Mr. Thao said. “He was their best hope of ever going back so this is sort of the closing of a book.”

Yuepheng Xiong, who owns Hmong ABC, a bookstore on University Avenue in the heart of this city’s Hmong community, which is one of the largest in the country, fought tears as he described the turmoil Gen. Vang Pao’s arrest had stirred.

“He was arrested by the very people that he trusted and who he had been so loyal to — the Americans,” Mr. Xiong said.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at June 15, 2007 5:25 PM
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