Hero or Heroin?

Alleged coup-plotter Vang Paos shady past eludes mainstream media

But evidence has already begun to emerge that Vang and his cohorts believed their plot had CIA backing. An undercover agent's affidavit attached to the federal criminal complaint against Vang states that the former CIA base at Long Tieng would provide a staging area for Hmong fighters once they received the weapons, and it quotes Vietnam veteran Jack saying that "his Hmong contacts had raised a lot of money through 'Air America' but had not taken any money from the CIA." Another accused plotter, Lo Cha Thao, told the agent his group had been consulting with a United States congressman and had received advice concerning "under table strategies" [sic] from military personnel like Jack and an unnamed "CIA guy."

Vang's attorney, John Balazs, refused to comment for this story, but he asserted in a written statement that Vang was innocent of any wrongdoing. "He is an honored and respected military leader who led Hmong forces in attempting to prevent Communists from taking control of Laos during the 1960s and early 1970s," Balazs stated. "General Vang Pao has worked actively to pursue peaceful solutions to the problems in Laos and has disavowed violence."

nschou@ocweekly.com

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