Images of Wat Tham Krabok Refugee Camp

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The Wat Tham Krabok refugee camp, located on the grounds of a similarly named Buddhist monastery, “Cave of the Teaching Monastery”, about 81 miles north of Bangkok, the Thai capital, was the last Hmong refugee camp in Thailand.  Beginning in 2004, almost 30 years after the end of the Vietnam War and companion “Secret War” in Laos, the Hmong’s former home, the camp–the last post-war one–was being closed, with approximately 15,000 Hmong people to be resettled in the U.S., especially in California, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

This collection consists of 200 images primarily taken by Pao Lor as a member of a Fulbright-Hays Group Study Abroad delegation of Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) educators who visited the camp in July 2004 when he was an assistant principal and language arts teacher at Neenah High School in Neenah.  Later, as an assistant professor of education at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, he took a few additional images at the former camp site when leading a group of University study abroad students in January 2009.  At that time, all that remained of the camp were a few people and houses.

On the DPI group’s two-day visit in 2004, they met with Hmong camp leaders and other individuals, Thai Task Force 546, who administered the camp, and school teachers, for example.  The latter were from the camp’s school and a Thai school, Ban Tharn Thong Daeng School, attended by some of the Hmong children outside the camp.  Pao Lor’s photographs from then present a representational overview of life as it was in the camp, showing living and working conditions, schooling, some traditional Hmong shaman ceremonies, aspects of refugee processing, and more.  His purpose was two-fold:  “To capture an important segment of Hmong history, and to advance understanding of the Hmong experience at Wat Tham Krabok.”

For Professor Pao Lor’s complete story about his two visits, including information about the Hmong and Wat Tham Krabok, please see his published article,“A Photo Essay of the Hmong Experience at Wat Thamkrabok in Thailand”. For Task Force 546’s “Mission Briefing” presentation to the DPI delegation, with a brief history of the temple and the Hmong there, and some statistics, see the PDF here.

Upon the DPI group’s return to Wisconsin, DPI prepared an “Information Packet about Hmong Refugee Students”, with, e.g., a list of the seventeen selected participants–six of whom who were Hmong, including Pao Lor–and their affiliations.

Pao Lor ( is presently an assistant professor in the Applied Leadership for Teaching and Learning Program at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

Larry Ashmun ( is the Southeast Asian and Hmong Studies Bibliographer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


At the time of the development of this collection, Violet Thor, a graduate student, and Mai Youa Lee, a masters graduate student, greatly aided in preparing the descriptions accompanying the images in consultation with Professor Pao Lor as well as providing valuable information based on their own personal knowledge and study of the Hmong.