A Blackbird's Song

On July 28, a traveling salesman from Laos left Bangkok for asylum in the U.S. Va Char Yang, 38, now lives in Oroville, California, with his wife, Mai Vang, and three small children. A year earlier, in Laos, he had been sentenced to 20 years in prison for crimes including possession of illegal explosives and drugs. At the time, U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that the trial fell "well short of international standards of jurisprudence." Va Char had been arrested while escorting two European journalists and their American Hmong translator out of the jungle in Xaysomboune Special Zone, a...

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