Chaosarn Chao

Chaosarn S. Chao, born in Laos, escaped to Thailand and immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 28 in 1978.

Video Timeline

Note: To listen to a specific clip, move the slider on the video to the designated clip time listed below.

00:00 – Introduction

00:18 – Clip 1
Chaosarn names village and province where he was born.

00:51 – Clip 2
Explains that he was a much-loved first son.

02:37 – Clip 3
Tells of his father serving in the French army and being a tribal chief.

04:15 – Clip 4
Father also farmed and was a businessman, as he could not support a family on village chief pay. By the time his father was 25, he had been appointed as a district leader, now in charge of 10-15 villages. He advanced to city counsel, and also periodically reported to French army, and continued farming. His family, like many others, harvested opium, a legal crop at that time in Laos.

09:01 – Clip 5
Did not start school till age 8, when his village opened a school with one teacher. Recalls playing Lao version of Simon Says.

11:04 – Clip 6
As much-loved first son, Chaosarn’s father took him everywhere, including into the city for meetings with the mayor.

12:54 – Clip 7
Recalls being responsible as a child for caring for 100 cows and having to constantly be on the look out for tigers.

14:29 – Clip 8
Explains how CIA made contact with General Vang Pao and then with Chaosarn’s father.

19:55 – Clip 9
Chaosarn describes the steps his father took to protect himself and his family from the corrupt government in Laos. He recalls his father telling the CIA that if he was caught by the Laotian government that he would be taken during the night and killed. The CIA used a translator from Thailand to communicate regularly with his father.

21:44 – Clip 10
Chaosarn recalls the roles and responsibilities of his mother, 3 step-brothers and 2 step-sisters. His step-siblings had families of their own and their labor was used on the farm.

24:52 – Clip 11
He goes with his dad to see the CIA, who is talking about bombing. They are stuck for a month.

30:11 – Clip 12
Chaosarn explains the Pathet Lao’s origination & the different kingdoms involved and expelling the French and power struggles.

40:50 – Clip 13
Chaosarn explains how the younger brother is smarter and decides it is time to talk about a peace deal and 13 countries get together to talk about 18 issues, 12 domestic & 6 foreign. Older brother (Prime Minister) agrees and demand the US Army leaves and Vietnam and Chinese forces increase. This is when Chaosarn’s family escapes to Thailand. Many people who helped the CIA were put in the reeducation camps. He has to leave behind everything including his silver, livestock, property, farm, and saw mill.

48:17 – Clip 14
Chaosarn explains that after his dad dies in April 1967, he graduates high school and then completes army training (in all trades) and works with the CIA. He talks about his role as financial advisor (including a helicopter full of cash). Chaosarn also says that general Pao takes him under his wing and helps him.  He says even now he stays in contact with some of the people in the CIA.

54:05 – Clip 15
He still hasn’t been back to Laos, but he’s been to China. Spends time talking about the current situation of Mien families in the states. Talks about all the organizations he was involved in/leader of and the importance of getting involved and helping the community.  “All you need to do is ask in this country!” He explains the importance of give and take and fundraising.

1:21:35 – Clip 16
Chaosarn explaining how when his father and the CIA were talking he was not allowed to listen. He talks about that the Laotian government hadn’t done much for the people and the CIA makes promises to help those Laotians who help them. A airplane full of supplies from US got shot down by communists and they have to rescue the pilot and a few others. Communists tries to get the pilot but eventually a US helicopter comes and rescues them. This is not the only time he sees this happen.

1:27:59 – Clip 17
Chaosarn talking about the Mien community and that they are very close and interconnected.

1:29:11 – Clip 18
Picture of Chaosarn as a financial officer.

1:29:19 – Credits

Photo Gallery

The below photos were provided to us by Chaosarn Chao.

In Memoriam

We are saddened to share that Chaosarn passed away on April 5, 2017 – View his obituary on

It was an honor to interview Chaosarn for our Time of Remembrance project. We encourage you to listen to and be inspired by his story of courage and resilience. Chaosarn will be missed by all.

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