Vang Pao is the revered leader of the Hmong. He's brought them from the jungles of Laos to this country thirty years ago, and despite facing federal espionage charges he remains their hero.
Flanked by a security detail Vang Pao came to rally his people. The 77 year old general and nine other leaders of the Hmong community were arrested last June, on charges they were plotting to overthrow the government of Laos.
The alleged plot came as the Laotion government was moving to crush the remnants of the Hmong army in the jungles of Laos.
Vang Pao has been under house arrest at his home in southern California while awaiting trial. A federal judge gave him permission to attend the Hmong New Year celebration in Fresno.
Despite health problems the General delivered a strong message to his followers.
He urged them to stick together, and stay united as a people.
The General's appearance is cause for celebration.
Pao Fang:"He always a father for us, and a great leader for us."
Blong Xiong: "To have him here in our presence in Fresno the largest city in California that has Hmong population, what a great success for the community, as Pao says, kind of a father figure for everyone."
The arrests threatened to disrupt this major cultural event, but instead it's bringing the community together. The Hmong new years celebration officially gets underway Wednesday, and record crowds are expected.
In addition to the federal charges facing Vang Pao and the others, the Hmong community has been rocked by the department of homeland security, which decided the Hmong soldiers who fought alongside U.S. troops in Vietnam are members of a terrorist organization and can't become citizens. A bill to change that is on the Presidents desk.