A small-scale insurgency that has existed since 1975 continues in the early 1990s, although at a much lower level than in previous years. This insurgency has never seriously threatened the regime, but it is troublesome because the insurgents commit sabotage, blow up bridges, and threaten transport and communications. The great majority of insurgents are Hmong, led by ex-soldiers from United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)-supported units who fought against Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese troops in the 1960s. Hmong groups, most of them formerly associated with the RLG, draw recruits and support from Hmong refugee camps and operate from bases in Thailand with the cooperation of local Thai military officers. As relations between Thailand and Laos continued to improve in the 1990s, support for this insurgent activity declined. Resistance spokesmen claim that their principal source of funds for weapons and supplies comes from Laotian expatriate communities overseas, including the 180,000 Laotians in the United States.
Even though the government lacks widespread public support, insurgency is less a measure of discontent than evidence of a serious ethnic problem. The LPDR, like the RLG that preceded it, has been dominated by lowland Lao. The two governments exemplify the traditional Lao disdain for upland peoples, in spite of Pathet Lao rhetoric in favor of ethnic equality. On the one hand, because many Hmong fought on the side of the "American imperialists," government leaders feel additionally suspicious of them. On the other hand, Hmong and other upland minorities who served with the United States-supported forces have been suspicious and uncomfortable under their former enemies. Thus, a core of insurgents, composed largely of ethnic minorities, continues to fight against the authorities. It will be extremely difficult-- perhaps impossible--for the government to pacify them, especially without help from Vietnamese military units, if the insurgents enjoy access to sanctuary in Thailand along the easily crossed 1,000 kilometer Mekong River border.
In the early 1980s, Hmong insurgents claimed that the Lao People's Army (LPA) was using lethal chemical agents against them. The Hmong refugees in Thailand often referred to the chemical agents as "poisons from above;" foreign journalists used the term "yellow rain." The government vehemently denied these charges. The United States Department of State noted in 1992 that "considerable investigative efforts in recent years have revealed no evidence of chemical weapons use" in the post-1983 period. The LPDR again denied these charges. The United States Department of State noted in 1992 that "considerable investigative efforts in recent years have revealed no evidence of chemical weapons use."
|Country Studies main page | Laos Country Studies main page|