Exploring the Consequences of War
The Betrayal represents a unique collaboration between director/cinematographer Ellen Kuras and the film's subject and co-director, Thavisouk "Thavi" Phrasavath. After the U.S. government waged a secret war in Laos during the Vietnam War, Phrasavath's father and thousands of Laotians who had collaborated with American forces were abandoned and left to face imprisonment or execution. Hoping to find safety, Phrasavath's family members made a harrowing escape to America, where, thrust into a confusing life of urban poverty, they discovered a different kind of war.
The film offers a chance to explore the lasting human consequences that result when governments choose to wage war. Below are some ways you can take action to explore those consequences, support populations that have been affected by war and discuss the role and responsibilities of countries in addressing the destruction caused by their involvement in war.
- Find ways to support the work of groups helping refugees or immigrant aid societies. Look into the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center's "Advocacy" page that addresses several issue areas such as deportation, education, material support and welfare and benefits.
- Investigate the services that your school district provides to immigrant and refugee students. In addition to helping the district provide the support these students need to succeed, work with teachers and administrators to help all students learn about the countries and cultures from which these children came.
- Convene a study group on the history and culture of Laos. If possible, invite people who have immigrated from Laos or families of Laotian immigrants to meet with your group and tell their stories. Find ways to share with your community what you learn. You can practice or learn Laotian and help others improve their English by finding a pen pal at Language Exchange Community.
- Create a public forum for former gang members, community activists, and law enforcement specialists to speak about the role that gangs play in your community. Include as part of your event planning for actions that the community could take to reduce gang violence. You can also invite a speaker from CeaseFire to talk about the negative effects of gun violence by filling out an application at the organization's website.
- Hold a teach-in on the consequences of war with a focus on the experiences of people who have been displaced by conflict. If possible, feature the experience of people from Laos.
- Host a debate on whether or not citizens of other countries who are enlisted to aid U.S. military efforts (like Thavi's father) should be entitled to some form of U.S. veteran's benefits. After the debate, contact your elected representatives to let them know what action you think the government should take.
- Host a panel discussion on the role and responsibility of countries in addressing the destruction caused by their involvement in the war. Panelists can include non-governmental organizations, legal scholars, government representatives and other speakers from the fields of peace, security and post-conflict.
Get informed about the issues in the film and lead a discussion in your community.
The Betrayal, a feature-length (82-minute) documentary, chronicles the family of Thavisouk Phrasavath. After the U.S. government waged a secret war in Laos during the Vietnam War, Phrasavath’s father and thousands of Laotians who had collaborated with American forces were abandoned and left to face imprisonment or execution. Hoping to find safety, Phrasavath’s family members made a harrowing escape to America, where, thrust into a confusing life of urban poverty, they discovered a different kind of war. As an outreach tool, The Betrayal offers a chance to explore the lasting human consequences that result when governments choose to wage war.
This lesson plan is designed to be used with the film The Betrayal (Nerakhoon), which tells the story of members of a Laotian family whose father and husband helped the United States wage a so-called “secret war” in Laos during the Vietnam War, only to face imprisonment or execution after the United States withdrew its forces. This family’s story represents the experiences of many Laotians and is an excellent case study for showing students how U.S. foreign policy decisions have the potential to impact generations.
This multimedia resource list includes books, films and other materials related to the issues presented in The Betrayal. Learn more about Laos, its role in the Vietnam War and Southeast Asian immigrants in America.