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Hmong leader charged

A prominent Hmong leader was among ten indicted this week in conspiracy charges to bring down the communist government in Laos. General Vang Pao, a Hmong military leader with strong Minnesota connections, was charged with raising money to buy weapons and recruiting fighters to topple the government in Laos, the Star Tribune reported Tuesday.

Vang Pao has long vowed to return the Hmong to their home in Laos, where they were ousted during the Vietnam War by the communist government in the country. Hmong soldiers helped the United States military perform a "secret war" in Laos and surrounding countries during the Vietnam War but their efforts to defend their homeland were abandoned by the United States after the Vietnam War ended.

Vang Pao made two trips to Minnesota in recent months, alledgedly raising money for his group's efforts to overthrow the Laotian government. Others in his group, called Neo Hom, shopped for military equipment sold illegally and were reportedly warned by a former Wisconsin senator to go outside the United States to complete the weapons transactions because the senator had heard of a sting operation surrounding the deals.

Locally, former US Attorney Tom Heffelfinger met with those close to the general Tuesday to discuss a defense council in the case. Heffelfinger acknowledged that he may be chosen as the head defense attorney in the case.