The Seventh Letter‘s Known Gallery in Los Angeles recently hosted a joint opening by graffiti artist POSE and photographer KC Ortiz. Ortiz’s series, “Forced Rebellion” chronicles the lives of the Hmong people as they run, hide, and fight for their lives in the mountains and jungles of Laos. KC sent us over some photos and text, here’s what he had to say about his experiences with the Hmong: “The photos that were shown at Known Gallery were from a series I shot on the remaining jungle Hmong in Laos. In December 2009 and January 2010 I spent three weeks in the jungle with the Hmong, who have been living a life on the run in the mountainous jungles of Laos for over 35 years. They are under constant threat and attack from the LPA (laos peoples army) and Vietnemese forces, paying a high price for their having sided with the United States during the Vietnam War. The Hmong were hired and trained by the CIA to fight the war within Laos as the US could not operate in country. Once the U.S. pulled out of the region they left many of the Hmong behind, deep within enemy territory”
“Since then the Hmong have had no choice but to live a life on the run and in constant conflict. Life in the jungle is extremly hard for the Hmong. Due to the fact that they are constantly being hunted down by the LPA they can not set up camp or settle anywhere for more then a week. Without any proper land to call their own they can not grow food or domesticate animals, malnutrition and starvation are as much of a threat to the Hmong as armed conflict is. They survive off of foraging roots in the jungle and the occasional rat, monkey, or bird that they come across. The Laotian government denies the Hmong exist, the world continues to ignore their pleas for help, and the Hmong are left alone against incredible odds, fighting every day just for their survival.”
Va Ming Lee, 55, with other Hmong fighters and children at their hidden camp in the jungles of Laos. Mr. Lee holds a M-79 grenade launcher given to him by the CIA when he served for them in the secret war against the communists in Laos. The Hmong are still in armed conflict with the victors of that war, the Lao goverment. Unable to surrender for fear of being murdered by the Lao goverment, they live a life on the run in the jungle. They beg for the U.S. and the U.N. to intercede on their behalf and come rescue them before they all die at the hands of the LPA or of starvation.
Upon our arrival to the hidden Hmong camp the group pleads and begs for help from the outside world in helping them leave the jungle. On the run in the jungle for over 30 years after the American pull out, they have been left to suffer on their own. “They are hunting us like animals. When they kill one of us the Lao communist government and troops are satisfied that they’ve killed one of America’s soldiers. Animals around the world are being protected so they can survive. Why aren’t we? We are human beings, why does the world tend a deaf ear and blind eye on us?” – Cha Her, veteran of the CIA’s secret war in Laos.
Cha Her, 56, a veteran who fought for the CIA during the vietnam war at a secret Hmong camp in the jungles of Laos. He says “I am a veteran. My military identification is 292973. I was a CIA soldier of America during the Vietnam War. America recruited us to fight the war in Laos. We fought the war for America for 15 years…In 1975 they started eliminating us, We are 100% soldiers of the CIA. They continue killing us to this day. All died to pay the price of America.”
Goh, 22, stands guard at the camp’s water source. An armed man from the group must accompany the women and children whenever they leave the camp, whether to forage for food or do chores at the water source.
“Forced Rebellion” by KC Ortiz runs alongside Pose’s “Rumble” till June 12th, 2010 at Known Gallery in Los Angeles.