It is inherent in the effort to publish to the highly diverse collection of people known as "Asian Pacific Americans" or APIAs that every so often, a hot-button issue or provocative article reveals the fact that there can be as many differences among us as there are commonalities, and that trans-Pacific conflicts can remain real divisions between ethnic groups here in the U.S.
We've written widely on the topic of "just what is an Asian American?" in the past on the Village, and will likely do so again as the definition and demographics of our community keeps shifting.
Meanwhile, we continue to occasionally receive and post reader messages that respond to controversial topics in articles by various newswires and contributing sources that appear on the Village, especially when they seem to introduce opportunities for substantive discussion on serious topics that affect our communities. Most recently, we have been publishing stories covering the accusation that General Vang Pao and a number of associates plotted an overthrow of the Laos government, and follow-up analyses of how the case is having a significant impact on the wider Hmong American community.
The following reader letter was sent sepcifically in response to the article, "Vang Pao Case Highlights Hmong Community's Losses," by a writer for New America Media. We post it here and encourage engaged readers to post their own follow-up comments as well.
--- LETTER ---
My response to Mai Der Vang, New America Media
on her article "Vang Pao Case Highlights Hmong Community s Losses"
I just saw this article and I would like to share my opinion:
Hmong are hill people. They live in the hills of Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. Hmong also live in China where they have a long history there.
http://www.hmongnet.org/hmong-au/chmong.htm link to article about Hmong
history in China.
I was born in Laos but I am not Hmong. I am Laotian, meaning I speak Lao, practice the culture and I am Buddhist.
Hmong people's primary language is Hmong, they practice a hmong culture and their religion is shamanism. The only thing that makes a hmong person laotian is that they live in Laos.
There are about 256,00 Hmong in Laos and they are a minority. The Lao are the single largest ethnic group in Laos.
I was very shocked to learn that Vang Pao attempted a coup on a country that
historically is not there. The historical ties of Hmong are really in China and
they have not had onwership claims to any country in for centuries. I am also
offended at Hmong people who claim to be Laotian yet don't practice the
language, culture or religon. The Hmong in America have mis-represented
themselves to the American culture by claiming to be Laotians when in truth,
they are hill people who have never been associated with any country they have
I constantly have to correct many American's that I am not Hmong when I tell them I am from Laos. I also educate them that Laos is primarily Laotian. I don't condone the Lao Army or goverment practicing genocide as Laos is a country with many different ethnic groups in addition to the Hmong. The recent attempt of Vang Pao to overthrow the Lao goverment only angers Laotians particularly when they have made no attempt to learn or adapt to the Lao culture.