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Death threat forces Hmong leader Vang Pao to cancel Laos trip

Gen. Vang Pao has canceled plans to stage a peaceful return to Laos this week after the communist regime announced he would be executed as a Vietnam War criminal if he goes back.

In a dramatic speech before 1,000 Hmong at the Fresno Fairground on Dec. 22, Vang declared it time to make peace with communist Laos for the sake of 4,500 Hmong who fled to refugee camps in Thailand and another 5,000 to 8,000 reportedly still hiding in the Lao jungles. He said he would return Jan. 10.

In the meantime, Laos has begun repatriating the 4,509 Hmong who were living in Thai camps.

A Lao embassy spokesman said Monday that they are being reunited with family members or being provided food, land or jobs "so they can survive."

Many California Hmong feared their relatives in Thailand would be persecuted or tortured once they were back in communist hands and didn't trust Vang Pao's call for reconciliation with the communists.