April 8, 2023

SAN FRANCISCO (October 7, 2010) – The Center for Lao Studies recently launched its online Lao Oral History Archive or LOHA at www.laostudies.org/loha. The project was made possible with initial grant support from the California Council on Humanities and the Asian Pacific Endowment. It documents the untold stories of former Lao refugees in California and Minnesota through audio and video media and developed an on-line archive of interviews, videos, and historical documents directly related to interviewees’ involvement or personal loss during the “Secret War” in Laos, their experiences in the refugee camps, and transition in the United States.

Four decades ago, Laos experienced unprecedented political upheaval and war. In the rampant Cold War climate of the mid-20th century and the ensuing Vietnam War, the American CIA launched a covert “secret war” against the communist Pathet Lao, resulting in a massive bombing campaign in Laos. By 1973 an estimated 200,000 people lost their lives in the conflict and nearly twice as many were wounded, according to the 1997 History of Laos, by Martin Stuart-Fox, Cambridge University Press.

When the Pathet Lao gained control of the country in 1975, hundreds of thousands Lao refugees fled their homeland between 1975 and the mid 1990s, majority of them immigrating to the United States. Based on the 2000 U.S. Census, California is home to the largest refugees from Laos with an estimated 180,000 and Minnesota as the third largest with approximately 51,740 people.

Currently, there are almost no existing oral history projects and little academic research focusing on the ethnic Lao refugees in the U.S. By creating a Lao Oral History archive.

“We are creating awareness within the Lao-American community and the general American population of the history, culture, and contemporary realities of Lao refugees in the U.S. as well as the tragic impacts and legacies of Secret War in Laos,” states Dr. Vinya Sysamouth, executive director, Center for Lao Studies.

This project disseminates the voices of underrepresented population, whose stories of immigration reflect unique moments in both Lao and American history, thereby building bridges between the past and present and between disparate cultures.

“An oral history project such as LOHA can teach us lessons about the endurance and resilience of the human spirit in the face of staggering loss and hardship.  In these stories there is suffering, but there is also survival and hope. These are stories that everyone needs to hear because they bring a voice and human face to the pressing global issues of war and cross border migration,” he concludes.

Center for Lao Studies (CLS) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization established in 2006 with a mission to advance knowledge and engagement in the field of Lao Studies through research, education and information sharing.

1 thought on “Lao history archive online

  1. It is encouraging that more attention is now being given to the Secret War in Laos. Hopefully, people will become aware of the enormous sacrifices made for us by the Hmong tribesman who fought on the side of America. Those tribesmen are now treated as bandits in their own country simply because they fought on the side of America.
    My new book was issued last month. It is called “Come Here…and I’ll Show You”. It is fiction, but it details the adventures of a Vet from the Secret war who returns to Laos on a private mission. The book is available on Amazon. It is fiction, but it details a lot of the events of the Secret War and the War’s locations in Laos.
    The book follows the best traditions of the ‘Pulp novels’ by Mickey Spillane and Raymond Chandler. The similes and metaphors are outrageous; the language is clipped and colloquial. The men are men and the women are damn glad of it.
    Needless to say, the women are fast and dangerous, and the hero is a two-fisted man of action.
    The book is aimed at the adult male market; the book provides a means for males to escape to some harmless, male orientated entertainment without being made to feel guilty about doing so.
    Come Here… and I’ll Show You” is an adventure-thriller. It is not graphic. It is often amusing, often surprising and always entertaining. The action takes place in Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.
    At the risk of sounding corny, I would describe the book as a ‘rattling good read for real men.’
    With best wishes
    Derek Lantin

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