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NAMING PARK FOR GENERAL ON HOLD;
   THE IDEA STIRRED CONTROVERSY OVER HIS ROLE DURING THE VIETNAM WAR.

By: Dean Mosiman, Wisconsin State Journal, May 10, 2002 Friday

The main proponent of naming a major Madison park after a Hmong general who fought communists during the Vietnam War isn't giving up.

But Park Commission member Locha Thao wants to do some more research before pushing ahead. Thao had proposed that the city change the name of an undeveloped, 61-acre park on the far East Side from Door Creek park to Gen. Vang Pao Park.

Pao served in the Royal Lao Army and led U.S.-allied Hmong forces against communists troops from 1961 to 1975. But accounts also link Pao to drug trafficking during the war. Pao, 72, who now lives in Orange County, Calif., remains an influential figure among Hmong and Laotian refugees in the United States.

The proposal stirred memories and controversy, including a Hmong protest against a UW-Madison professor who alleged Pao was involved in drug trafficking. A Park Commission subcommittee recommended against the name change, saying Pao didn't fit guidelines for naming parks. And the Hmong community was divided by the idea.

Thao withdrew his proposal before it was to be discussed by the full commission this week, saying he intends to more carefully explore community sentiment before trying again to rename Door Creek or another park site.

"I don't want to push this in the middle of controversy," he said.

Pao welcomes the honor, but is not offended by a delay or refusal, Thao said.