Wed, Jun 20, 2007 - Page 4 News List

Hmong American man with links to Vang Pao arrested


A Hmong American suspected of having links to the leader of a US-based plot to overthrow the government of Laos has been arrested in Thailand near the Lao border, police said yesterday.

US embassy officials in Bangkok said they could not confirm the arrest, although Thai police said they would take the suspect to the embassy yesterday to verify his identity and to determine whether the US wanted him repatriated, Police Captain Sitthinan Sithkamjorn said.

Kathleen Boyle, a US embassy spokeswoman, said she could not comment because of privacy concerns.

Thai police identified the man as Sha Wang Lee, 53. He is believed to be an associate of Vang Pao, a 77-year-old former general in the Royal Army of Laos, who has been charged in California along with nine others in the alleged plot.

Sitthinan said he could not confirm the exact spelling of the man's name but said he carried a US passport that expired on May 27, 2003, and showed his hometown as Fresno, California. He also carried a certificate signed by Vang Pao stating he had undergone military training.

Police arrested Sha Wang Lee on Monday in Nan province, 540km north of Bangkok, bordering Laos.

Sitthinan said Sha Wang Lee would be detained in Thailand for overstaying his visa if he was not deported to the US.

On Monday, Vang Pao and the other nine accused in the plot pleaded not guilty to conspiracy charges that could bring them life in prison. They appeared before a US District Court in Sacramento, California.

The accused included Harrison Jack, a 60-year-old former Army Ranger who led covert operations and worked with Hmong fighters during the Vietnam War.

The other accused are members of the Hmong community who found refuge in the US following the fall of Laos to the communists in 1975. A number, including Vang Pao, served in a secret CIA-funded army to fight North Vietnamese and Pathet Lao forces during the Indochina War.

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