This dissertation documents the historical development of the transnational politics of the Hmong, a people who came to the United States as refugees from the Vietnam War, from 1975 when the Hmong left Laos to 2010 when the Lao PDR government rejected Hmong leader Vang Pao's request to return to Laos. Drawing on archival research, ethnographic fieldwork, and oral history interviews in Laos, Thailand, and the United States, it interrogates how and why the Hmong diaspora continued to engage in Lao national politics from exile. What role did the Hmong diaspora play in the ongoing fighting in Laos? In what ways, under what conditions, and to what extent did the Hmong diaspora transcend domestic political systems and engage in non-domestic (i.e. international or transnational) ones? How did the bilateral and multilateral relations between the United States and Asian nation-states, particularly Laos, Vietnam, China, and Thailand, affect Hmong transnational politics and the political, economic, and social status of Hmong Americans? What impact did Hmong transnational politics have on the bilateral relation between the United States and their Asian homeland of Laos? It examines the disparate political and institutional forces that shaped the rise, fall and resurgence of Hmong transnational politics, including the Sino-Vietnamese border dispute, the Communist revolution and the Second Secret War in Laos, the Communist insurgency in Thailand, and the Second Cold War, the 1996 Welfare Reform and the War on Terror in the United States. It shows that Hmong transnational politics, as a legacy of the U.S. military intervention in the Secret War in Laos in the 1960s, emerged in part to redress the human rights abuses back home and in part to rebuild broken lives and shattered communities in the diaspora. Ultimately, it argues that the Hmong failed to "liberate" Laos not only because the Hmong were divided and ambiguous about their desired goal in Laos but also because Thailand, China, and the United States solely used the Hmong to protect their own geopolitical interests. They never supported the call of the Hmong for self-determination or intended to save them from communist persecution in Laos.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. July 2010. Major: History. Advisor: Dr. Erika Lee. xix, 469 pages.
Dreaming of home, dreaming of land: displacements and Hmong transnational politics, 1975-2010..
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