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A Laotian Refugee Tells His Story

The small nation of Laos, along Vietnam's western border, became entangled in the Vietnam War. Laos was invaded by the North Vietnamese Army and covertly bombed by the U.S. After the Communist Pathet Lao emerged victorious in 1975, the country became little more than a protectorate under the de facto control of Vietnam. Long Vang was one of those displaced by the ongoing conflict, eventually fleeing to the mountains to fight as a guerilla soldier. Escaping to Thailand via a treacherous Mekong River crossing, Vang met a fate typical of Laotian refugees, stranded in a Thai camp for almost two years. Eventually he made it to the United States, a development he describes with mixed feelings.

My name is Long Vang. I was born in Laos. My father worked in the farm and my mother was a cook. I had two brothers and two sisters. We lived in the beautiful place and were very happy, but after my father pass away, we moved to the new place. My country had A war. After 1975, the Communist came and took over my country. My brother and sister left me over there because at that time I was young and I couldn't go with my brothers and sisters to Thailand. I thought my brothers and sisters will be back in a few months, but they didn't come back. At seventeen years old, I had to live by myself until 1978 when the Communist were very powerful and I couldn't live In town. Then I moved with the people who lived in the mountains to fight for freedom. I was a guerrilla soldiers to fight from 1979 to 1983. I had lost many friends who lived in the forest and we didn't have enough food to eat. We fought one day and ate the next day. It was very difficult for me to live because I didn't have any thing around me. I knew I have only my gun to show me the way I must do. I didn't know how to save my life. Also I thought if I fought the Enemy again maybe my life is going to finish that's when I decide to leave the country. A day at a time after I left my country and went to Thailand. It was not easy for me to cross the border of Laos and Thailand because the Mekong River was between two countries. After I came to the border, it hard to get to into the water. I had to think about myself. I knew I had to cut the small tree to make a small boat for me to cross the Mekong River. After I crossed the Mekong River, I saw many people died. I couldn't help them. It was scary then I pass the Mekong River to Thailand. The Thai soldiers took me to the camp and I lived in the camp almost two years. I never thought to come to America. I always thought about going back to my country. One day my country will be free again. I waited month after month, year after year, but the communist still lived there. I thought I have to go back to my country and live there forever, but my brother wrote me a letter and he told me to come to America and start a new life in America than I decided to come to America and forget about my country, but I couldn't. I still miss my home town where I was born.

Source | "Stories of the Present," Rancho Santiago Community College Centennial Education Center,
Interviewer | Grace Tanaka
Interviewee | Long Vang
Item Type | Oral History
Cite This document | “A Laotian Refugee Tells His Story,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed September 29, 2023,

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