NEWS RELEASE -
September 15, 2003
Laos (FFC) American photo/journalist Roger Arnold visited the jungles of Laos to investigate and document the reported massacre of 26 Hmong near Vang Vieng earlier this year. Arnold is the first American journalist to visit the U.S. Secret War veterans and their families that have been hiding in the remote jungles of Laos for nearly 30 years. He is also the first American since 1975 and the end of the war in Southeast Asia to meet with these people.
Recently U.S. Ambassador to Laos, Patricia Haslach called on the Lao government to investigate allegations that on April 6, 2006 the LPDR military had massacred the 26 Hmong people, mostly women and children, north of the popular tourist city of Vang Vieng. This request came after several independent sources, including Amnesty International and the Fact Finding Commission confirmed the incident.
It took a three-day arduous trek through the dense mountainous jungles of Laos for Arnold to reach the group lead by former U.S. Secret Army veteran Blia Shoua Her. Upon his arrival Arnold was met by the group: "They all fell to their knees crying for me to save them from the communist military they claim has hunted them like wild animals. It was the first contact most of them had ever had with the outside world. They are starving and too afraid to leave the jungle. Most have bullet or shrapnel wounds and all of them are terrified from being regularly shot at."
Arnold visited the scene of the massacre, the burial sites, and interviewed the survivors.
He found evidence of the group having been ambushed as they traversed a ridge while searching for food. Those that survived had wounds consistent with having been shot at from behind as they ran. All the victims were women or children with the exception of one man. Blia Shoua Her reported that five babies died of starvation after the attack because they no longer had access to their mother's milk.
He found many of the people suffering from malnutrition and that many die from hunger. He reported they keep their belongings packed in the event they have to move to avoid contact with the military troops.
The people in the jungle told Arnold they just wanted to live without the fear of being chased and hunted. Leader Blia Shoua Her told him they are not a part of the Hmong resistance and want peace. Her claimed they are just civilians defending their families, hoping to surrender to the U.N.
Arnold brought back photographs of the veterans and their families still trapped in the remote jungles of Laos.
Roger Arnold's captioned photos can be viewed at www.rogerarnold.net
The Fact Finding Commission is dedicated to exposing the plight of the veterans of the U.S. Secret War who have hid in the mountains and jungles of Laos for the past thirty years to escape the retribution of the communist Lao government for their loyalty services to the United States during the U.S. Secret War in Southeast Asia.