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Federal grand jury drops charges against former Laotian general

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Two years after federal prosecutors charged him in connection with an alleged plot to overthrow the Communist government in Laos, a grand jury has dropped the charges against a former Laotian general who lives in Orange County. More on the story from KPCC’s Cheryl Devall.

Many Hmong Americans who’d fled Southeast Asia toward the end of the U.S. war in Vietnam regard General Vang Pao as a leader and a hero. The former Laotian army commander-in-chief had helped American troops in his country for a decade; later he assumed the role of elder statesman for Hmong in the United States.

Many of them, and some prominent American military leaders, rallied on his behalf when federal prosecutors charged him and 10 other men with conspiracy to violate the federal Neutrality Act. Prosecutors said they’d plotted to export military grade weapons to Laos.

Seventy-nine-year-old Vang was briefly in federal custody, and authorities later placed him under house arrest in his home in Westminster. The U.S. attorney in Sacramento did not say which factors may have influenced the federal grand jury to drop the charges against Vang. His 10 alleged conspirators and two others are still under indictment.