10 charged with plot to overthrow Laos government
At least 10 people, including former Royal Lao Army general Vang Pao, 77, and a former United States , 60, have been arrested in six different cities in California, USA after authorities with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), uncovered a plot to bring down the government of Laos. Suspects were arrested in Chico, Fresno, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Stockton and Woodland.
The plot, say prosecutors, involved obtaining C-4 explosives, AK-47 rifles, rockets, land mines and missiles, ship them to Thailand, and then use the arsenal to take down the main branch of the Laotian government by blowing up the government’s main buildings in Vientiane, the capital of Laos.
The bombs would be deployed using “special operation mercenaries,” but undercover agents working with the ATF foiled the plot when the suspects were tricked into buying the weapons and supplies they needed from the undercover agents.
“These defendants had developed an audacious plan to overthrow the government of Laos, and were seeking to arm themselves with automatic rifles, rockets and surface-to-air missiles,” said the assistant to the U.S. Attorney General, Kenneth Wainstein in a statement to the press.
“The individuals arrested today thought an arms dealer would provide the necessary weapons and personnel to assist them in the violent overthrow of another government. An undercover ATF agent led them to believe he could fulfill their needs,” said acting ATF director Michael Sullivan in a statement to the press.
According to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court, the plot was put together by a Lao liberation movement known as Neo Hom, led in the U.S. by Vang Pao, and had conducted extensive fund-raising activities, surveillance operations and an insurgent force within Laos.
Vang Pao led Hmong forces backed by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency against the communist Pathet Lao in the “Secret War” in Laos in the 1960s and 1970s. He served in the Royal Army of Laos, holding the rank of major general. After the fall of Laos to the communists in 1975, Vang Pao immigrated to the U.S., where he is a folk hero among Laotian refugees. There were plans to name an elementary school after him in Wisconsin, which is home to many Hmong people.
Another man named in the charges, Jack, is a former California National Guard lieutenant colonel and a 1968 West Point graduate. He was involved in covert operations during the Vietnam War. Jack acted as an arms broker and organizer of the plot, according to the criminal complaint.