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The Hmong Come to Southern Laos: Local Responses and the Creation of Racialized Boundaries

By Ian G. Baird


There is a long history of Hmong migrations from the north to south. Most recently, Hmong have begunemerging in the southern-most parts of Laos, including Champasak and Attapeu Provinces, places wherethey never lived before, and some Hmong have tried to move south from Bolikhamxay to KhammouaneProvince. Southern Laos would appear to represent a new southern frontier‘ for the Hmong. This articlelooks at the interactions between the Hmong who have attempted to migrate into southern Laos and theLao and Mon-Khmer language-speaking peoples they have encountered. Some Hmong movements intosouthern Laos have been accepted, while others have not. Crucially, negative racialized stereotypes aboutthe Hmong being aligned with anti-government resistance groups, and being inherently destructive of theenvironment—as unfair as they may be— have influenced the prejudiced responses in southern Laos tothe arrival of the Hmong. Others simply see the Hmong as being difficult to get along with and administer(still another unfair stereotype). The cultural practices and habits of some Hmong arrivals have confusedand upset some Mon Khmer language-speaking peoples in southern Laos. The movement of the Hmongfrom the north to the south, and the reactions of others to them, are important for understanding the waysHmong are geographically positioning themselves, and how others are attempting to construct spaces andassociated boundaries designed to restrict them. Thus, the focus of this article is on the reactions of othersto the Hmong, and the way particular racialized boundaries have been developed.


The Hmong Come to Southern Laos

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