What we know about the Hmong refugee crisis of decades past and how it relates to the current Syrian refugee crisis

  • Sheila Maylee Yingwangkay California State University Fresno
Keywords: Hmong, Hmong refugee, Secret War in Laos, Syrian refugees, Syrians, refugee resettlement, Syrian War, Syrian Crisis, Central Intelligence Agency, Operation Momentum, Operation Timber Sycamore, Laos, International Relations, Comparative Politics


This comparative case study links the current Syria crisis to the historical conflict in Laos during the early 1960s until the late 1970s. The Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) involvement with the Free Syrian Army and the Hmong tribesmen is discussed to fill the gap in literature to understand the importance of their paralleled relationship with the agency and how the United States of America uses the CIA to conceal their involvement in foreign wars. Content analysis using coverage from the New York Times, along with media coverage of Hmong refugees from 1975 to 1990 and of Syrian refugees from 2012 to 2015 will illustrate that major patterns in the Hmong case are similar to Syria’s current refugee crisis. Both Hmong and Syrian refugees experienced chemical warfare from regimes backed by the Russian military. They encounter persecutions when crossing international borders and waterways causing increased civilian mortality. In both cases, regime violence targeted key United States allies and collaborators.This paper argues that the crisis of the two countries is significant to understanding the devastating impact that developed nations have in developing countries and how its national interest in foreign affairs can lead poor nations to destruction, thus causing a global refugee influx. Most of which is done through proxy wars by recruiting vulnerable local villagers, tribesmen, and rebels to fight. The study therefore concludes that the Hmong case could be a useful benchmark in determining the outcome of Syrian refugees.