Rally For General Pao

Fresno, CA A couple hundred Hmong gathered in downtown Fresno to celebrate their leader's newly found freedom. General Vang Pao was charged in 2007 with conspiracy to violently overthrow his former Laotian government. Yesterday the government dismissed those charges.

Action News reporter John-Thomas Kobos shows us how important this moment was for one teenage girl and her family.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what would a picture of Hmong leader General Vang Pao say?

17-year old Sheng Thor would start off by telling you what Pao means to her family. "It's really good now. If we were still living in lao it would be really hard. It's really a good thing that we got here because of General Vang Pao that's why we're here," she said.

When the government dismissed conspiracy charges against Pao on Friday, due to a lack of evidence and political pressure, an overwhelming sense of acceptance filled hmong everywhere.

Thor: "All the hmong people now they feel like everything is ok and there's more freedom for us now."

During the Vietnam war the U.S. armed Pao and his special guerilla unit to protect American soliders and attack the Ho Chi Minh trail. Pao virtually became a hero overnight to thousands of American soldiers.

After the war he led his people to America and away from persecution by the Laotian government which is why many Hmong doubted their place in America after Pao was charged for conspiracy by the U.S. two years ago.

"General Vang Pao is a good American citizen and he is a very important leader," said veteran Bee Yang.

Yang's parents aided Pao and cared for injured soliders.

In the Hmong culture these strings mean good blessings. You'll find them here at the Lao Hmong Memorial. But Saturday they have extra special meaning as this group prays for the 12 men still facing conspiracy charges.

Those close to the general said he will continue to support the men accused.

Paula Yang: "He will continue to do the work that he does best. It's to advocacy, promote democracy and freedom."

Older generations spent much of Saturday sharing tales of Pao's successes. It is the hope that the younger generation will carry his commitment to America and Hmong world wide.

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