Laos says it will monitor the Vang Pao case closely and that the case will not affect Laos-US relations in any way.
Mr. Yong Chanthalangsy, Laos Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson, said to VOA that Laos and US already enjoy good relations and co-operation between the two countries has steadily expanded in many areas.
Mr. Chanthalangsy said The US embassy in Vientiane has informed Laos about the press release of the U.S. Department of Justice regarding the arrest of General Vang Pao and nine other suspects in the case. He said all the suspects are U.S. citizens and they have violated American laws, not Lao laws.
In some earlier reports, Lao officials were quoted as saying it was great news for Laos. Although former Gen Vang Pao, who is now 77, had left the country more than 3 decades ago, but Lao official still blame him for many of the problems, including the issue of the Hmong refugees at Ban Houai Nam Khao, Khao Kho District, in Thailand’s Phetchabun province.
Mr. Chanthalangsy said it’s too early to draw any conclusion about this case, because for now it’s just a charge, not a verdict yet.
On Monday, prosecutors in California arrested 10 men and charged them with plotting to overthrow the Lao government, after a six-month covert investigation.
A criminal complaint filed in federal courts says that former General Vang Pao, a prominent Hmong leader in the U.S., was charged with conspiracy to topple Lao leaders.
Before emigrating to the U.S. in mid 1970s, Gen Vang Pao was a commander of Laos’ 2nd Military Region which played an important role in fighting communist guerrillas in northern Laos before the communist took over in 1975.
Also charged on Monday was a former California National Guard Lieutenant Colonel, who had allegedly acted as an arm broker. The rest are important member of Lao Hmong ethnic group.
The complaint says this group want to recruit mercenaries and obtain a variety of weapons, including guns, anti-tank missiles and Stringer missiles, and as of May, the suspects had placed some agents in Vientiane, to conduct military operations against specific military and government buildings.
Ms. Maly Siribounthong Jong, deputy probation officer in California said the authorities would likely have had all evidences in place before making the arrests.
Attorneys for the defendants said on Tuesday that former Gen Vang Pao and others charged in this case are heroes with high integrity who oppose violence, according to Reuters report.
If found guilty, the defendants could face up to life in prison.
The Lao Foreign Ministry spokesman also told VOA’s Bangkok stringer that his government closely monitor the Vang Pao case to see how it will turn out and, in the meantime, it will launch a campaign to inform the Hmong community in Laos, so as to prevent more Hmongs from fleeing to Thailand.
Listen to our Laos Today for more details.