ST. PAUL (AP) -- After spending a month imprisoned in Laos, life is starting to return to normal for the Rev. Naw-Karl Mua.
Since returning to Minnesota last week, Mua has been spending time regrouping members of Light of Life Lutheran Church, his small Hmong congregation in Maplewood.
His wife, Sue, who took time off during his detention, is back at work. Talk has turned to routine family issues. His four kids are back into their usual summer activities.
Still, Mua realizes that his life is changed forever.
Mua's family was on edge last month after hearing that he and two European journalists had been arrested in the death of a village security guard.
The journalists had been reporting on the Hmong insurgency in Laos and Mua was their interpreter. Despite maintaining their innocence, the men were sentenced to 15 years in prison.
These days, Mua has more resolve to share the story of his ordeal.
Mua was born in Xiengkhuang Province, where he was arrested last month.
After coming to Minnesota, Mua continued to travel to Southeast Asia and said he has worked with budding Christian groups there. His most recent trip was to northern Thailand.
It was there that he heard about the two journalists who wanted to contact Hmong resistance fighters in Laos, Mua's home country. It would be a chance for Mua to see some of the people he had left behind.
The men received tourist visas and flew to Laos. They traveled as far as they could in the jungle by car before hiring Hmong soldiers to guide them to a village. Trouble began after their visit to the village. The group arrived back at the road where they were supposed to be picked up on June 3. The driver didn't show, and the journalists grew impatient, Mua said.
A guide went to find another driver. An encounter with the Laotian soldiers came about midnight. The group moved to a small hollow to hide, but soldiers were there. Shooting started when the soldiers shined a flashlight on the journalists.
Mua, who was unarmed, fled.
After spending the next day in the jungle by himself, he surrendered to authorities. They told him a Laotian soldier had died. Mua was taken to a provincial prison, then transferred to one in a larger city.
Ten prisoners were kept in a room the size of a small bedroom, he said, and shared one bowl for water and one bowl for a toilet.
Despite a quick trial in which the government declared his guilt, Mua said he never lost confidence he'd be released. Part of the reason was that the U.S. ambassador was at the trial, and Mua knew that the Laotian government wants to normalize trade relations with the United States.
"The judge, he was sweating," Mua said.
"Even if I had to suffer, it was a good thing because it opened the dirty tricks of the Laotian government to the free world," the Lutheran pastor said.
Not everyone agrees with Mua's assessment of the situation in Laos. The Laotian government considers members of the Hmong resistance movement to be terrorists or bandits. And while there are concerns about the government's human rights record, the United States is seeking to normalize trade and economic relations with it.
"In general, Laos is a very safe, peaceful country," said Gerald Fry, a University of Minnesota professor of international and intercultural education who has lived there.
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