This study aims to prove whether Hmong are a resistance of leaders, in addition to their commitment within historic ethnic principles and beliefs. These leaders are intriguing and their specific attributes are to be recognized; the study will aim to prove whether these leaders are born or made. This study aims to show whether the Hmong groom young men and women to fulfill a life of greatness or if they themselves strive to greatness through the persecution of their very own culture. Questions to be answered within the study include who these frontrunners for greatness and leadership are, whether they are handpicked or groomed for success, or whether they are created through the tenacity and power of the Hmong and the principles of its people.
The Hmong people are defined as “mountain-dwelling peoples of China, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand who speak Hmong-Mien languages. There are also émigré communities in the U.S., France, and elsewhere” (Merriam-Webster, 2013). However, the great leaders, inspiring individuals and public figures of the Hmong are a more well-defined representation of their people, struggles, perseverance and triumph in modern society. Throughout history, civilizations have confronted various challenges that added difficulties and endanger their living, but also provide chances that gave them the opportunity to enrich their values and their customs, as well as update their lifestyle to current norms.
Hmong is a society that has taken its persecution and used it to make great leaders. However, some leaders are born into this society, and such history is the existence of the Hmong people. They have faced assaults, wars, conquests and atrocities which have yet to destroy its unity and assimilate them, possessing the power to maintain their racial identity. The Hmong resistance, as well as their dedication within historical ethnic principles and values, is fascinating and something to be praised, but this also imposes research as it generates questions regarding who these leaders are, whether they are hand-picked or groomed for greatness, or whether they are made through the perseverance and strength of the Hmong and its principles.
Isolating in the mountains or in other deserted areas, the Hmong people prefer to maintain their status as a free population rather than being assimilated by Chinese, and eventually the Laotians. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter “announced the United States would only admit 168,000 Indochinese refugees for the year,” whereas “Thailand was burdened with over a quarter of a million refugees” (Jacobs, 1996, p. 144). This brought some 27,000 Hmong into the United States. In 1980, the United States passed the Refugee Act, which restricted resettlement in the United States and provided approval of resettlement on a case-by-case basis. The Act “caused the resettlement of Hmong in the United States to drop from 27,000 in 1980 to 3800 in 1981” (Jacobs 1996, p. 145). In 1999, there were approximately 250,000 Hmong people residing in America, living in several areas (Moua, 2010).
Kevin Levine’s (2013) documentary Becoming American found the following:
Starting in December of 1975, the very first Hmong refugees arrived in-the USA, chiefly from refugee camps in Thailand; nevertheless, just 3,466 were granted asylum currently below the Refugee Assistance Act of 1975. Initially just 1,000 Hmong individuals were evacuated to the US. In May 1976, another 11,000 Hmong were permitted to enter the USA. This first wave was constructed mainly of men directly connected with General Vang Pao's Secret Army, which were aligned with U.S. war efforts through the Vietnam War. Four years later, with the passing of the Refugee Act of 1980, households of the Secret Army were also allowed to immigrate to the USA, representing the second wave of Hmong immigration to the USA (Levine 2013, p. 25).
Michael Johns, a former White House aide to President George H. W. Bush and a Heritage Foundation foreign policy expert, together with other powerful conservatives, led a campaign to give the Thai-based Hmong immediate U.S. immigration. A heated international argument developed over how the rest of the Hmong refugees in Thailand should be handled (Levine, 2013).
In an October 1995 National Review article, mentioning the Hmong's contributions to USA war efforts during the Vietnam War, Michael Johns: labeled Clinton's support for returning of the Thai based Hmong refugees to Laos a "betrayal" and prompted Congressional Republicans to step up opposition to the repatriation that grew in Congress and among Hmong families in the USA, and Congressional Republicans responded by introducing and passing laws to appropriate sufficient funds to resettle all remaining Hmong in Thailand in the United States (p. 24-25).
Clinton, however, vowed to veto the laws.
During the past thirty years, the Hmong who have remained in Laos have been severely oppressed by the Lao communist regime, cut off from the rest of the world and at the mercy of aggression and severe assaults on a continuous basis. Reports of human rights violations against the Hmong, including deaths and imprisonments, led most Thailand-based Hmong to oppose returning to Laos, whilst the problems of the camps, lacking adequate backing, worsened (Levine, 2013). In addition to resistance by U.S. conservatives to keep Hmong out of the United States, the authorities of Laos also expressed public reservations about the repatriation, saying the Hmong staying in Thailand were greatly involved in heroin and opium trafficking (Levine, 2013). These peaceful mountain-dwelling people had ultimately become the victim of whatever the Laos government wanted to say in order to persecute them. Currently, Thailand sets the death penalty for anyone caught trafficking drugs, and as of 24 May 2013, Laos has begun administering the death penalty for drug trafficking as well.
For a long time, United States boundaries were exposed to the Hmong, but the Hmong have been omitted because of the creation of new immigration procedures. With the end of the year fast approaching, the United States government must act quickly to repair the regulations barring the Hmong, and reopen its borders to a people that once struggled alongside the United States military.
The Importance of Addressing the Problem
Today, the Hmong people of the People's Democratic Republic in Laos and the United States curerntly live in a hard political and economic climate. This climate is informed by an extended history of exemption in a country which has experienced severe and continuing chaos for decades. Furthermore, the Hmong of Lao PDR continue to reside in poverty caused, in substantial part, by deliberate isolation and political marginalization from financial and instructional opportunities. This problem is the consequence of both historic ties the Hmong had in previous years to western powers and the traditionally distant locations of Hmong villages. The Hmong continue to experience extended violence against them. One example of the continued violence against the Hmong occurred during a massacre on April 6, 2006, in which twenty-six ethnic Hmong were killed (mostly women and children) in an ambush by the Laotian government troops in the northern Vientiane Province (Rose, 2008).
Today, there are close to 8,000 Hmong refugees confined to the Huay Nam Khao refugee camp in the Phetchabun Province of Thailand. These people are being threatened with forced repatriation to Laos by the Thai government (Rose, 2008). There has been a massive call to get the Hmong of Laos out of this situation, but with the ever-tightening immigration laws in the United States, this may eventually become impossible. In Hmong society, the leader is responsible for all the conduct of his members. For example, when a member is in trouble, the leader steps in and accepts responsibility and solves the problem. He also faces the consequences of these mistakes, becomes a life time record for that family (Saykao, 1997).Therefore, if it is up to the Hmong leaders to advocate diplomacy and democracy for its people, determining the right attributes that dictate strong leadership must be found.
Analysis, Synthesis and Evaluation of Hmong Leadership
According to Pao Lor (2012), in Commentary: A Framework for a Twenty-First Century Hmong Leadership, Four distinctive, yet overlapping, historical Hmong leadership eras may be identified. These include the China Era (prior to late 1800s), the Laos Era (late 1800s to 1980s), the Thailand Era (1975- 2011) and the America Era (1975-2012). These eras were characterized by dramatic and revolutionary changes in society, including:
- Oppression of a People (domination, coercion, cruelty, tyranny, repression and
- Discrimination against a People (bias, bigotry, intolerance, inequity)
- Prejudice against a People (injustices, narrow-mindedness & cultural chauvinism)
- Dehumanization of a People (violation of basic human rights and needs)
- Suppression of a People (censorship, control and destruction)
- Violation of the integrity of a people (its honor, dignity and spirit) (p. 7).
Within these principles that have been kept by the Hmong since their existence for nearly 2,000 years, one must study whether these principles are upheld by each leader, or if they are something that was only followed until a certain period time. If the leaders are taught to uphold principles designed to be expectations of Hmong Leaders, then they are indeed ‘made’. However, there may also be Hmong leaders that simply uphold a sense of humanity that is born with them, which makes them great leaders. Here, we find a ‘grey area’ within the definition of what an Hmong Leader is, and must examine the true principles within the definition in order to determine if leadership is ‘made’ or ‘born’. As a result, the question remains what exactly constitutes a “true” Hmong leader.
Dr. Pao Saykao (1997) in the article Hmong Leadership: The Traditional Model, describes the Hmong leader as having these qualities:
- “Noj tau, hais tau” – He does as he says and says as he does; be accountable; lead by example.
- “Siabloj, siabdav” – Kind and considerate.
- “Cojlustaug” – controlled and diplomatic in what he says.
- “Cojncaj” – just and fair play in all dealings.
- “Nyiamkwvtijneejntsa, nyiamphoojnyiamywg” – sociable and mix well with all.
- “Paubkevcai” – know the rules/customs/norms, etc. (p. 1).
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