Elaborate funeral planned for Hmong guerrilla leader Vang Pao

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Luke Frazza /AFP/Getty Images

Former Hmong Gen. Vang Pao (right) in May 2000 during a wreath-laying ceremony at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Members of the Hmong community are planning an elaborate funeral ceremony for Vang Pao, considered a father of the Southeast Asian immigrant community.

UPDATE: Relatives of the former Laotian general who was a key U.S. ally in the Vietnam War say they've decided not to hold public viewings of his body outside California.
Family members of Vang Pao initially hoped to bring his body to Hmong communities in Minnesota and Wisconsin. But now they say it won't happen because it's impossible to preserve the body during the trip.

The memorial ceremony is expected to last several days in Fresno, a center of the Hmong community. It gets underway February 4th at the Fresno Convention Center. Eighty-one-year-old former general Vang Pao died last week in Clovis just outside Fresno.

Pao served as a general in the CIA-backed guerrilla army in Laos. He fought the communists in the Vietnam War.

After moving to the U.S., he helped found social service agencies for new immigrants. Critics have said he should not be honored because of a violent past.

He faced federal charges in 2007, accused of conspiring to hire a mercenary army to overthrow the government of Laos. Federal prosecutors dropped the charges against him. The case against about a dozen other members of the Hmong community is still unfolding in court.

Following the funeral in Central California, organizers say they will bring his body to other centers of the Hmong community, Minnesota and Wisconsin, for public viewings there.

Some Hmong community members say he should be honored and buried at Arlington National Cemetery because of his role in helping Americans during the Vietnam war.

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