Emerging Voices: Experiences of Underrepresented Asian Americans

By Huping Ling | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
Cultural Transition
and Adjustment
THE EXPERIENCES OF THE MONG IN THE UNITED STATES

PAOZE THAO

Over one million Southeast Asian refugees have arrived in the United States since the fall of the Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese governments to the Communists in 1975.1 These include the Cambodians and Chinese Cambodians from Cambodia; the Lao, Mong, Thai Dam, Mien, Khmu, and Lahu from Laos; and the Vietnamese and Chinese Vietnamese from Vietnam.2 This chapter focuses on the experiences of the Mong in the United States.

The Mong have a history over 5,000 years. Having no writing system of their own until the 1950s, their early history was recorded by Chinese and Western scholars dating back to 2497 B.C., when they inhabited San-Wei, Southern Gansu, China.3 The Chinese made many attempts to sinicize them, but the Mong opposed assimilation and full integration. Therefore, the Mong and Chinese fought from the Huang-di era (2497 B.C.) to the nineteenth century.4

The Mong migrated from China to Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand between 1810 and 1860.5 Those in Laos assisted France during its colonialism (1893–1945) and postcolonialism (1945–1960) and the United States in its “secret war” against the Communists during the Vietnam War (1960–1975). When the United States withdrew its troops from Southeast Asia, the Mong were singled out by the Communists for political persecution.6 In 1976, Congress recognized that the Mong worked with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and authorized the State Department to admit some to the United States. Therefore, between 1976 and 1978 over 80,000 Mong arrived in the United States. By 2000, their population had increased to about 186,000.7 In 2007, the Mong population had reached approximately 3.5 million worldwide (2 million in China; 900,000 in Vietnam; 400,000 in Laos; 200,000 in Thailand; 20,000 in Myanmar; 9,000 in France; 2,000 in French Guiana; 2,000 in Australia; 1,000 in Canada; 200 in Germany; 20 in Argentina; 100 in New Zealand; and 186,000 in the United States).8

This chapter is divided into three parts. Part one provides background information on the Mong, including their family life; social, political, economic,

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