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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 May, 2004, 15:55 GMT 16:55 UK
Wires from the front line: Laos

Ruhi Hamid
Ruhi Hamid was the first Westerner the people had seen for 28 years
"Coming into the village it was so moving. Everyone was crying. It was an incredible sound".

Transcripts of telephone calls, text messages and
e-mails between Ruhi Hamid with the Hmong people in Laos, and Will Daws, series producer in London, record Ruhi's remarkable journey.

Some of the place names in this log have been changed in order to protect the people involved.

All times GMT

Tuesday 9 March

Got visas for Laos.

The village I'm going to has 217 villagers (the bigger village is too far), where there will be people with guns patrolling.

The Hmong are still being hunted down by government troops

The boatman will take them from xxxx. He will be monitoring the river for three days running before they're due out of the jungle.

The guys in the jungle have radio link-ups with the blackbirds (Hmong underground network) in Laos.

xx (underground network) will not enter Laos. He'll stay near the Laos border.

When I travel up river I won't have a translator. The boat journeys will be staggered but I'll meet up at several points on the river, but will always have a blackbird (Hmong underground network) with me.

Wednesday 17 March

I am walking, heading east. We stayed hidden in the jungle for several hours till night fall. We are with six armed guards. It is hard walking. Too dark to get a GPS reading.

Friday 19 March

I arrived safely on location.

Saturday 20 March

Every muscle aching. Got there safely. Tough walk, had to scale a mountain in the middle of the night.

Chong-Cha Lee is our character; one of the people who brought us in. He is fighting for the Hmong CIA secret veterans.

Chong-Cha Lee
Chong-Cha Lee

He has a wife and seven kids. His 14-year-old son has to defend his siblings when he's out. He lost his father during the Vietnam war and has an old mother.

Good at talking.

They all have weapons, even the 14-year-old boys.

Chong-Cha Lee plays this amazing traditional instrument down by the river with his Kalashnikov.

They have pigs and chickens and dogs here which makes it look settled but it's not. They're all muzzled to stop them barking.

No one wears uniforms. They have trousers held together with bits of string.

Coming into the village it was so moving. Everyone was crying. It was an incredible sound. They hugged us. I carried on filming.

I'm the first Westerner they've seen.

Sunday 21st March

Just ringing to say I'm fine. Last night we had a hell of a thunderstorm and everything got drenched. We were undercover. I filmed Chong-Cha Lee on night patrol.

The rains have arrived early. The road we got dropped off on is a complete dirt road and we were struggling even when it was dry. If it rains for two solid days it will slow our walk out and may disrupt the road so boat may be a possibility.

We were thinking of a shorter route but it means more road blocks so we'll do the same route out which is two and a half days. We all have swollen ankles from the walk.

Monday 22nd March

06:00-08:00 The men meet up and discuss the days patrolling

08:00-10:00 Breakfast with 13-year-old boy he's patrolling with that day. They set off on patrol.

10:00-12:00 More patrol with our character teaching the young boy how to patrol. Lots of nice talking. The boy gets leaves from forest for traditional healing.

12:00-14:00 Lunch and then a shaman does some traditional healing on his sick mother.

14:00-16:00 Tour of the wounded, including a three-year-old boy with a bullet wound in his leg who can only crawl - his older brother starts crying and asking why they didn't shoot him instead. Another man with a bullet wound through his jaw. (The day before there was a boy with a shattered leg who still walks around with his gun).

16:00-18:00 Hanging out. He cleaned his gun; he made the barrel out of wood from the forest. Played his musical instrument; very sad song about how they are people with no mothers or fathers.

Ruhi Hamid was accompanied by Misha Maltsev

One Day of War was broadcast in the UK on Thursday, 27 May, 2004 at 2100 BST on BBC Two.

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