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The Ethnic Liberation Organization of Laos

The Ethnic Liberation Organization of Laos is the largest opposition group. The organization grew out of a major Hmong resistance group, the Chao Fa (Lords of the Sky, or God's Disciples). The Chao Fa was organized in 1975 by Zhong Zhua Her (Pak Au Her, or Pa Kao Her), a senior resistance fighter who had received aid from the United States in his fight against Pathet Lao and Vietnamese forces.

In the late 1970s, the Chao Fa boasted of having 20,000 members; however, only 2,000 to 4,000 were armed. By the mid-1980s, the number of armed Chao Fa was probably around 2,000. Because it had been subjected to years of attacks by government and Vietnamese forces, the group was split and forced to flee into China, which provided it with assistance.

By late 1984, China had returned Laotian resistance groups back across the border. In 1985 Zhong Zhua Her reorganized the Chao Fa under the banner of the Ethnic Liberation Organization of Laos and set up his base camp in Xaignabouri Province near the border with Thailand. From his base, Zhong Zhua Her attempted to organize resistance elements in the northern provinces of Laos and sought to establish an autonomous region for the Hmong.

In 1990 the Ethnic Liberation Organization of Laos reportedly had 3,000 men in armed units and another 6,000 persons trained but without weapons. Individual weapons reportedly were variants of the AK-47, a few M-79 grenade launchers, RPG-2, RPG-7, and a few 60mm mortars. In the early 1990s, the group concentrated on mounting small-unit operations and consolidating support. Beginning in 1992, relations with the other resistance groups were poor to nonexistent. This greatly hampered efforts of resistance movements to organize a broader agenda and larger operations as did closer relations between Laos and Thailand. As of mid-1994, the strength of the Ethnic Liberation Organization of Laos was estimated at approximately 2,000 persons.

Data as of July 1994