Civil rights champion for Hmong in Laos
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. Ð Vang Pobzeb, Ph.D., 48, passed away on the evening of Tuesday, August 23, 2005 in Wisconsin after suffering from a heart attack. He is survived by his spouse, Nou Moua, two daughters, Mai Pa Vang, 3, and Mai Kao Vang, 2, and several brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles.
Vang Pobzeb was born in Laos on July 12, 1957. He served in the CIA Secret War in Laos as an intelligence officer from 1971-1975. He distinguished himself early on a refugee and was among the first to achieve academic prowess in the Hmong American community – completing his doctoral degree in Political Science in 1992 from the University of Denver.
Dr. Pobzeb Vang was well known to the community ever since as director of the Lao Human Rights Council, based in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. He was a lifelong leader who dedicated his life to working with public leaders and private citizens to advance the cause for human rights. His work especially targeted Hmong living in Laos and Thailand, but his efforts had an obvious and far-reaching impact on the Hmong people worldwide.
He also came into the mainstream eye in 2002 when he spoke out against the allegations that General Vang Pao had been involved in wartime drug trafficking.
ÒThe worldÕs Hmong population lost a valiant and dedicated leader with this weekÕs passing of Dr. Pobzeb Vang, said Minnesota State Senator Mee Moua (DFL-St. Paul). ÒDr. Pobzeb Vang wasÉa pioneer in the fight to protect the rights of Hmong throughout the world, especially in Laos.
ÒI first met Dr. Pobzeb Vang at a human rights conference 15 years ago and have followed his work ever since,Ó Sen. Moua said. ÒHe dedicated his life to fighting for the human rights of Hmong living in Laos, but the effects of his work were felt through all countries and cultures. He stood up for those who were denied the opportunity to defend themselves. His leadership, compassion and dedication will be sorely missed by everyone who respects the value of each human life.
ÒI would like to extend my condolences to Dr. Pobzeb VangÕs wife, young daughters, mother, brothers and sisters, and the large extended family that he leaves behind. They can take comfort and pride in the thought that thousands of people have been affected by his noble mission.Ó
Dr. Pobzeb VangÕs passionate and constant reminders of the plight of Hmong in Laos to public policy makers locally and internationally eventually won allies from Wisconsin town and city leaders, to Congressmen and Senators, and international leaders from nongovernmental organizations to the United Nations.
He most recently appeared in Minnesota on July 15, 2005 at a State Capitol rally to demand support for the 6,500 refugees stranded in the Petchabun Province in Thailand. He spoke to hundreds of people about his contacting the United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan on July 8, to request immediate assistance and look into a permanent solution to this crisis. He detailed a plan that involved a Òsafe zoneÓ within Laos for the Hmong to receive medical assistance, food and shelter. He called on the international community to hold the Lao government accountable for human rights violations.
ÒThrough his courage and determination, (Vang Pobzeb) enhanced great challenges by calling the international community to oppose the government of the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic (LPDR) for violation of human rights and conducting genocide, ethnic cleansing and oppression against ethnic Hmong in Laos,Ó stated Ed Szendrey. ÒDr. Vang was a young leader that has the nobility to represent his people in the advancement of peace, justice, freedom and democracy. He poured his heart out greatly to his people with unconditional love, supports, and service was a vital part of his life. Dr. Vang will be greatly missed.Ó
Funeral services for Dr. Vang Pobzeb will be held at Legacy Memorial Services at 255 Eaton Street, St. Paul, from September 16-19, 2005. A trust fund has been set up for his memorial: Dr. Vang Pob Zeb Memorial Fund/Attn: Member Services Dept/The Golden 1 Credit Union/P.O. Box 15966/Sacramento, CA 95825-1966.
A fund to help support the refuges Ð Voices for Hmong Relief Fund: is at Western Bank, 663 University Ave., St. Paul, MN 55104.