After Failed Musical Career, Laos War Hero Turns to Extortion

Longcheng, Laos – Zeb Yaj became a war hero during the Vietnam war. Zeb was tired of hearing gun shots, bombs, and noisy planes flying through his small mountain village near the border of Vietnam. Armed with only a Hmong knife he singlehandedly drove the US forces out of Vietnam in 1975.

Yaj found it hard to adjust to civilian life. Nightmares woke him up every night screaming in terror. Small jungle sounds would set him into horrible recollections of the war. He was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The most respected shaman in Laos was called to perform a spiritual ceremony to fix Yaj. Five cows, five pigs, twenty chickens, and one spider monkey was sacrificed for this ritual. After three days of the shaman jumping on Yaj’s rooftop, he was healed. Xai Chue, the shaman who healed, Yaj says,

“He have long white snake and green snake demon hold his spirit hostage in a temple. I go free his spirit to come back to his body. He now better.”

Yaj returned to normal life. He farmed rice and raised animals on his small property. Bored of a tedious repetitive life, he bartered his land for some karoake recording equipment. He wanted to be a famous musician. He was able to record some records but unfortunately his dream of becoming a famous musician was short-lived.

Defeated and out of money, Yaj turned to the only profitable profession in Laos. Extortion! In the Hmong culture if a person tries to court another man’s wife, he would have to fix their marriage by paying them a lump sum of money. This would be the building block of Yaj’s scheme. He would send his wife out and hook unsuspecting Hmong men visiting from America. Yaj would then confront those men about trying to court his wife and demand payment to fix their marriage. Below is his latest victim, another Hmong musician from the US, Alain Lee.

ZQ’s investigative reporter Brian Williams, who is on leave from NBC, was there and gives his account of what happened.


“I was interviewing some Hmong guerrillas in the jungle when we came upon heavy fire. I ran through the jungle triggering many land mines on my way out when I came upon this incident. I saw Zeb Yaj slapping this other man with a huge Hmong knife. I feared for his life. After the incident I secretly followed Yaj and took this picture of him ‘Bitch slapping that Hoe.'”

Authorities have arrested Yaj, and Alain is being treated at the hospital for his injuries. Alain plans to go back and further court Yaj’s wife since her husband can’t do anything about it from jail.  When reached for comment, Alain did not respond with any statements.  Instead, he sent us the following photo to other Hmong Americans having fun over there. ■

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Written by Zaub Qaub

They say he still holds the Midwest's record for growing the largest cucumber, but he modestly claims "it's really not that big" as he tucks it into his pant legs. ZQ is dedicated to feeding the world with veggies from his garden. You can find him at most farmer's markets, looking for the freshest leaves to toss his salad.

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