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Laos' ex-gen Vang Pao cancels his trip home

Exiled Hmong leader Vang Pao has cancelled his plan to visit Laos this week after Laos government said he would face death penalty if he returns home, a California-based newspaper reported Tuesday.

His son Cha Vang and his confidant Charles A Waters failed several attempts to negotiate with Lao authorities to pave the way for the return of the ex-general, according to the newspaper The Sacramento Bee.

Chai Vang, one of Vang's 18 sons, said the general's representatives apparently spoke with "the wrong people - it wasn't the proper channel."

The exiled Hmong ex-general announced last month in Fresno, California, in front of some 1,000 American Hmong that he planned to return to his home country Laos on January 10 to end the three decade long conflict with the regime in Vientiane.

Vang Pao who turned 80 on Christmas Day was the guerrilla leader of ethnic minorities who helped the United States fought against the communist movement since early 196s until the fall of Vientiane in 1975.

Vang's plan was announced as Thailand was repatriating more than 4,500 Hmong refugees from Phetchabun and Nong Khai to Laos. The massive deportation was completed within one day last week.

Vang said it's time to forget the past and to live with the government in Laos peacefully.

However the reconciliation process has not yet begun in Laos and the authorities were not ready to welcome him home.

Lao Foreign Ministry's spokesman Khenthong Nuanthasing told The Nation that Vang Pao has to face legal implication upon his return.

He was sentenced to death in absentia for Vietnamera war crimes by the Lao People's Court after the communist take over in 1975, Khentong said.

The Hmong general remained his dream to return home someday. "We're hoping for reconciliation in the future, but at this time we're more concerned about the Hmong who were repatriated," Chai Vang said of his father's efforts as reported by the newspaper.

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