“Hunted Like Animals”

22 Mar

In 2006, there was a hype in the Hmong community about the documentary by Rebecca Sommer, “Hunted Like Animals.”  The film synopsis on Rebecca Sommer’s website states that:

Hunted Like Animals is an eye-opening documentary about an ongoing, but unknown, genocide — against the Hmong people in the jungles of Laos.  Coerced into joining the CIA’s anti-communist efforts during the Viet Nam war, this ethnic minority became a Secret Army.  When the U.S. pulled out of Southeast Asia in 1975 and the Lao kingdom was overthrown by the communists, the Hmong became targets of retaliation and persecution.  Hundreds of thousands fled the country; others ran to remote mountainous regions of Laos.  Over thirty years and two generations later, the Hmong in hiding are still mercilessly hunted, attacked, raped, tortured and killed by the military.  Since 2004, the crackdown has intensified and those who can escape seek refuge in Thailand.  The traumatized refugees have not been promised protection or help.  Instead, they are threatened with deportation back to Laos, the very place from which they barely escaped.  In this documentary, the refugees speak for thousands of voiceless people still trapped in the jungle, surrounded by Lao and Vietnamese soldiers — and hunted like animals.

When I tried to watch the film in 2006, I couldn’t sit through it.  I wasn’t ready to know the truth about those left behind.  The brutality.  The pain and suffering.  The helplessness.  The silence.  I got very emotional and turned off the documentary.

Fast forward five years.  “Hunted Like Animals” was ready to be played on my laptop.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to watch it alone, so I tried to recruit anyone.  My youngest sister said she had already seen it with Grams on YouTube; she didn’t want to sit through it again.  My other sister thought I was talking about the Hmong movie “Caub Fab (Jao-fa).”  She got excited until I told her it is the documentary not the movie.  Finally, I asked Dear Spouse.  I braced myself as we sat down together to watch the film.

I choked back tears as I watched Hmong refugees in Huay Nam Khao (White Water), Thailand speak up about the atrocities in Laos.  Chemical bombings, killings, rape, torture, starvation.  Being constantly on the move to escape Laotian and Vietnamese soldiers and not having a place to call home.  No medicine.  No food.  Relying on whatever the jungle has to offer.  Having only weapons left from the Vietnam War to protect themselves.  No one to rescue them.

Screenshot of boy taken from Hunted Like Animals

Although the stories the Hmong in White Water told are horrendous, it was much more traumatic to see footage of how the Hmong in hiding (called Caub Fab—pronounced Jao Fa) live.  The image of the little boy whose abdomen was blown open with his stomach and intestines hanging out has been burned into my brain.

At first I thought the men were carrying a dead body, but I was shocked (with disbelief, sadness, and anger) when the boy told his mother that he was in pain.  His mother was crying, asking what happened.  The boy explained to her through shallow breaths and a blank expression that the soldiers attacked.  He was hiding and when the shooting stopped, he thought it was safe to come out.  Unbeknown to him, the soldiers were still there and they shot him.

No matter how much I want to erase it, the image will always be there.  For days, all I could think about was this poor innocent little boy and the painful slow death he must’ve gone through.

As a mother, I cannot bear to think about my child in that condition.  The heartache that little boy’s mother must’ve gone through is unimaginable.  You could hear the concern and love in her voice as she spoke to her son, “What is Mom going to do about her boy?”  What are you suppose to do?  You don’t want to lose your child, yet you have no choice.  He is barely alive, but should you prolong his pain and suffering?

The life of this little Hmong boy and those killed in the jungle of Laos shouldn’t have to be wasted.  Sometimes, I wonder: What if the Hmong people hadn’t gotten involved in the Vietnam War?  Would we be living peacefully in the lands our forefathers migrated to?  Or would we be under the oppression of communist rule?  We will never be certain of the answers to those questions.

4 Responses to ““Hunted Like Animals””

  1. Sendie-Lou March 22, 2011 at 9:44 am #

    I’m still having a nightmare on this documentary. I have to leave the room and I just cry and cry, I can’t even begin to imagine his physical pain and his mother’s pain. In my opinion, the documentary should be title hunted by animal. Only animal is capable to do things like that. maybe not, animal only attacked when they feel threaten. never for fun.

  2. Mai Panchal March 24, 2011 at 12:49 pm #

    Where did you watch it. I want to see it.

  3. whatsaysyou March 26, 2011 at 10:28 pm #

    Your blog post is an eye opener for a blogger like myself and I cannot believe what the Hmong people went through as mentioned in that documentary. This is just saddening.

  4. Fight the Police July 5, 2011 at 3:32 pm #

    You can get it from any down loader service out there–e-mule, fileshare, etc.

    That war is still going on, but I think the bigger issue is that the CIA is still running brothels in Laos, and still involved in heroin trafficking.

    Worse, the issue of genocide might be a case of distraction from the fact that 37% of the land there is untillable because its full of unexploded ordinance (UXO’s) left behind by Americans.

    When I watched the video, I remember thinking that the little dead girl in the forest was a victim of being hunted.Only years later could I connect the dots between CIA propaganda and United States UXO deaths. Her are some stats: http://www.uxolao.org/Victims.html

    Official statisics lie, so I don’t take them into account at all, but I do note the correlation between the rise in the deaths of Hmong, and Lao alongside the rising steel prices and the competition from these groups to collect bomb fragments–one of the few sources of economy there–next to working in a CIA brothel.

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