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Andrew Lange Dr.

Yang Dao Throughout history, Hmong people were referred to as Meo or Miao, which meant barbarian or savage. This clearly being a derogatory term, the Hmong people preferred their own term Hmong, which means free people. Their wish to be called free people coincided with their wish to actually be free and left alone to practice their culture. For years the Hmong people were persecuted for their cultural differences. The modern climax of their persecution seemed to occur in the aftermath of the Secret War and the Vietnam War when the communist regime took control. To make matters worse, America, who made promises to assist Laos and the Hmong people, was not holding up their end of the bargain and many were left to hide or flee on foot to Thailand. Dr. Yang Dao, one of the men who fled to Thailand with his family, played a key role in the events that occurred during this time, participating in many key negotiations. He is considered to be one of the most accomplished men to come out of Laos, and his love of the Hmong people led him to return to Laos after studying in France to help fight for the rights of Hmong people. Before he was a scholar Dr. Yang Dao lived in Laos where he was born in 1943. His family was very diligent and hard working, and Dao looked up to his father Yang Myno. Myno was one of the first Hmong people to become educated and was a French elementary teacher from 1936 to 1939. Myno strived to educate his children which eventually led to the education of Dr. Yang Dao. When the war in Laos started, Yang Dao was at the top of his class and was allowed to complete his education in France. After his completion of high school in France, he received a scholarship to study at the University of Paris where he studied social and economic development. After that, he received another scholarship to study at the Sorbonne and got his

Andrew Lange doctorate in the same field. He was the first Hmong person to receive a PhD which he received in May 1972. After his education, Dr. Yang Dao decided to return to Laos, even though it was in a wartorn state. The love of the Hmong people led to his return even though he worked for less than 100 dollars per month. He worked to educate the Chiefs of Districts and Governors on social and economic development. A political agreement that called for a cease fire between the communist Pathet Lao and the non-communist Royal Lao Government allowed Yang Dao to perform his workshops in relative peace. He also worked diligently to abolish the derogatory term Meo. This peaceful state didnt last long. On May 10th 1975 Dr. Yang Dao received the news that the Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese troops had surrounded Long Cheng and were prepared to attack at any minute. After receiving the grim news, Dr. Yang Dao was in an interesting situation. He met with the Prime Minister, who was the leader of the non-communists, and the Vice Prime Minister, who was the leader of the communist side. He was able to negotiate for the two to work out a political solution to the situation, but this solution hinged on General Vang Pao, in Long Cheng, abiding by the rules of the cease fire. It was not known at the time whether Vang Pao would abide because the phones were cut off in Long Cheng and no one could reach Pao. This prompted Yang Dao to travel to Long Cheng to meet with the General. Dr. Yang Dao was able to convince General Vang Pao to do what they thought was best for the Hmong people, which was to fulfill his end of the bargain and leave Long Cheng. After an intense night of negotiations, General Vang Pao and Dr. Yang Dao decided to leave the country. Yang Dao reunited with his family and left for Thailand with his family by car at 3:30 A.M. with nothing. He said that he and his family must have been blessed because all

Andrew Lange three military checkpoints were deserted because the troops were sleeping. He was also very grateful for a friend who got the boats from Thailand to cross the Mekong River. Even though his family was safe from communist persecution there were more complications that arose in the Thai camps. When in Thailand, the Hmong people werent considered refugees; they were just people visiting Thailand so they couldnt get political asylum. One of his sons also contracted polio and it was determined in Thailand that he would never walk again. A friend in France, however, called and agreed to let Dr. Yang Dao and his wife and son travel to France where they eventually cured their son. His work wasnt done yet. He worked tirelessly to negotiate with French and U.S. officials to allow Hmong refugees to reside in their countries. Despite their initial refusals, due to the thought that the Hmong wouldnt survive in modern times, Dr. Yang Dao convinced them to allow Hmong refugees. Despite Dr. Yang Daos successes, the Hmong people have struggled in America. One example is the excerpt from The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. These people couldnt tell the doctors what they thought was wrong with their child or any of the symptoms. The language barrier that occurred when Hmong people first started to come to America was a big factor in their problems with adjusting to American society. Dr. Yang Daos story of success as a Hmong, his struggles with the war in Laos, and the Hmong refugee situation show that the Hmong people have made great strides, but there is still more work to be done for the Hmong people.