The Hmong people fled Laos (a country
in Asia) and crossed Mekong river into Thailand. Why flee
Laos? Because the communists were attacking villages and killing
people. They had to get out of Laos! So they depended on their
neighbors, the Thai people, for help.
Soon there were a number of refugee camps set up where the
Hmong crossed the Mekong river. Bonwinai was the biggest.
If they were lucky, they would cross near a Thai village and
someone would feed them and give them clothes, then they would
tell the people at the refugee camps.
At first the refugees had to sleep in tents, but eventually
families were given wood and nails and most people had tin
roofs. For meals, they would get rice and maybe some meat,
they would go to the cook house to get your ration cooked.
Eventually, that changed too when the camps had been there
a while, each family had a fire pit in their house.
No one had jobs there, so there was a lot of free time after
you settled in. The men would play soccer from sun up to sun
down. The children, if parents want them to, could go to school
and they were also taught by Thai officials how to play hopscotch;
they played that and other games too.
Because no one had jobs and the Hmong people had little
or no money what-so-ever, they sometimes snuck out. There
was a metal fence with barbed wire on it and later a three-feet
deep ditch to prevent this, they still found a way to get
out. When they got out they usually had to walk five or so
miles to get to the nearest village. Then they would find
a one-time job that often paid very low. Then they would sneak
Another way they got money is after the gates opened to
America, the families that went sometimes would send money
back along with letter and if their relative couldn’t
read, they would send cassette tapes back and they could buy
a tape player or borrow one from someone. The Hmong women
soon got recruited to make paj ntaub and send to America ,
where people would sell them and they would get the money.
This brought up the problem of families not depending on the
There was another problem. The Thai officials were given
money by U.N.H.C.R. (United Nations of High Commission over
Refugees) to buy food for the refugees. The officials used
their power in a bad way, they sometimes used only half the
money for the refugees and kept the other half for themselves.
Or else they take some of the rice for themselves. Also mice
or other rodents would chew holes in the rice bags and the
rice that fell on the floor, they would sweep back up and
they’d give it to the refugees.
In this way many people got sick and also if one person
got sick, they were cramped so tight that many people would
get sick, and at the hospital, they would run out [of] medicine
and people would have to share needles.