MacAlan “Mac” Thompson, a quiet hero to Hmong and other post-war Indochinese refugees, died Monday at his home in Pathum Thani’s Lam Luk Ka district. He died after a lengthy battle against cancer. Thompson was 77.
After graduation from Oregon State College in 1963, Thompson served in the US Army, including a tour at the Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base. He then joined, and worked extensively with, the US Agency for International Development. His main assignments came on many key projects during the war in Laos, beside both US and Thai officials and military officers.
Like many Americans in the “secret” war against North Vietnam inside Laos, Thompson worked closely with Hmong, both villagers and soldiers of the army of Gen Vang Pao, the major thorn in the side of North Vietnamese trying to obtain supply lines to the main war in South Vietnam.
The fall of Vientiane to the Pathet Lao on Dec 2, 1975, opened a new “career” for Thompson, after he evacuated to Thailand. Working with a tiny group of “young Turk” veterans, he began lobbying and working on behalf of the Indochinese refugees – Vietnamese, Lao, Cambodian, but particularly Hmong – in order to move them to the United States. Opposition inside the US government to any large intake of war refugees ran all the way to the White House and then-president Jimmy Carter. But Thompson and his group worked for several years to meet, overcome and on occasion bypass anti-refugee regulations and sentiment.By far his greatest success was convincing the US establishment to accept tens of thousands of Hmong and beat back heavy, often racist pressure to keep the former hilltribe people out of America on grounds they supposedly could never adapt to the climate or US culture. Thompson and his small group were right, his opponents right to the top of government, wrong.
After the refugee crisis ended, Thompson dedicated his work to helping the recovery of Laos, chiefly through the Thai-Lao-Cambodian Brotherhood, a tightly knit network of veterans from the conflict. In his last internet communication before his death, Thompson sent out an email detailing the success of many Hmong-Americans elected to high political positions in the US mid-term voting in November.