Hmong general to be honored at Arlington ceremony


Sat, May 14, 2011 - Page 7

A legendary Hmong general who led a CIA-backed “secret army” in the Vietnam War was to be honored at Arlington National Cemetery yesterday, three months after a burial snub, organizers said.

In a move hailed by his family, a US Army honor guard will join the ceremony for General Vang Pao and other veterans at Arlington, after US authorities refused to allow him to be buried there following his death in January.

“It is honorable that [US authorities] have granted official permission to hold a memorial service,” said Philip Smith, director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis, who backed the push for an Arlington burial.

“General Vang Pao’s family is also very pleased at the good news from Arlington National Cemetery and the US Army,” he added, saying Vang Pao’s son, Chong Vang, would speak at the ceremony on behalf of the family.

The 81-year-old general died on Jan. 6 in California, and was buried near Los Angeles on Feb. 9 after efforts failed to persuade US authorities to allow his burial at Arlington.

At the Lao Veterans of America monument inside Arlington ceremony, a US Army wreath-bearer and bugler will help “honor the Laotian and Hmong veterans, and their American military and clandestine advisors ... during the Vietnam War,” organizers said.

The event is being sponsored by the Lao Veterans of America Institute, the Lao Veterans of America, members of the US Congress and the US Department of Defense, the organizers said in a statement.

US intelligence agents tapped Vang Pao when they sought a force in Laos to fight off North Vietnamese communists. He became legendary for his organizational skills, guiding everything from US air strikes to medical supplies and managing an army of Hmong, lowland Lao and Thai mercenaries.