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Laos says no to Gen Vang Pao's plea



Laos on Friday rejected exiled Hmong leader Vang Pao's request to return home, saying if so he has to serve his death sentence first before any consideration is to be made on his fate.

Lao Foreign Ministry's spokesman Khenthong Nuanthasing said that the Vientiane government has no intention to reconcile with him.

Vang Pao said from Fresno, California on Tuesday that he would like to return his home in Laos after the New Year to end the long chapter of conflict with Communist government in Vientiane.

Officials in Vientiane said they have been monitoring news about the ageing Hmong leader and considered his latest move as a decoy for unclear purpose, Khenthong said.

"If he comes to Laos soon, he has to serve his death sentence that was ruled in absentia by Lao People Court since the current regime took power in 1975," Khenthong said via a telephone interview from Vientiane.

Vang Pao said in his 80th anniversary birthday in front of some 1,000 Hmong in the US that "now is the time for reconciliation" with the Laos state to "liberate thousands of Hmong trapped in the jungles and stuck in a Thai refugee camp."

"We have to make a change right now," Vang Pao said.

"The government of Laos has tried to open the door. We should put something on the table and sit down in peace."

Khenthong said Laos has a policy to welcome oversee Lao who fled their home since 1975 to return and help rebuild the country, Khenthong said, "But such policy is applied for those who were not convicted or committed any wrong doing."

Vang Pao said an unnamed official from the Thai Royal Project and a Palitburo member of the Lao's People Revolutionary Party will assist him with his planned visit to Thailand in January. He said if the situation is conducive, he plan to cross the Mekong River at the Friendship Bridge in Nong Khai province and make a brief visit to his home country.

The Lao spokesman, however, said no key member in the ruling party has arranged such deal for him since the government in Vientiane "has nothing to deal with him."

"Without Vang Pao, we can develop Laos and we don't need him," Khenthong said.



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