Fresno prepares for funeral of General Vang Pao

FRESNO, Calif.

Saig Vang is one of the organizers. "It is a very big preparation, it is a preparation we have never done before." He said.

From the stage, where the General's coffin will be placed, to the arrangements of white flowers the funeral is a community event.

"Everyone has a say in this because my father did belong to the people."

Chai Vang is one of the late General's 18 sons. He says the funeral ceremony is designed not only to give the General's followers a chance to say goodbye, but it is part of a more important process, allowing his father's spirit to retrace his steps on earth, visit all the places he's lived, and along the way clear any obstacles to the afterlife.

"So it's going to be many hours, many days just to get him to his final resting place." Chai Vang said. "To meet his parents, our grandfather and our aunties and his brothers will be waiting there for him."

In other words, heaven.

"Exactly." Chai Vang said. "It's exactly that, he's en route to the promised land."

A crowd of up to forty thousand is expected during the nearly weeklong event. The General's widow, Maysong Vang, told us through a translator that she believes her late husband's spirit will be pleased

Maysong Vang told us through a translator, "She's saying that father will be very happy knowing all the Hmong across the world from all the countries especially the United States of America will come together to pay respect to him, especially the Royal Family coming from France as well. He will be very happy to see the Hmong people come together to pay their last respect to him."

The Lao Royal Family was exiled to France after the communist takeover of Laos. Vang Pao was named a Major General of the Royal Lao Army.

The funeral ceremony begins on Friday. A horse drawn carriage, bearing the General's casket will lead a procession of family and followers to the Convention Center. The public is invited to attend.

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