Full Frame features photo essays and conversations with photographers.
In the early 1960s, the CIA recruited the Hmong people of Laos to fight the communist forces during the Vietnam War. It was known as "The Secret War."
The Hmong are considered some of the world's best guerilla fighters, and they helped counterattack the communists on America's behalf. In 1975, the United States withdrew from the region, leaving the Hmong behind in communist-controlled territory.
Today, some 5,000 Hmong veterans and their descendants are still hiding in the remote mountainous jungles of Laos. They live on the run, under constant attack from Lao and Vietnamese forces for having sided with the United States. They defend themselves with antiquated guns and those taken from dead enemy soldiers.
About the photographer:
KC Ortiz is a self-taught freelance photojournalist with a split base between his hometown of Chicago and western Thailand. His work focuses on under-reported issues and overlooked people. He is currently working on a long-term project about Burma as well as other stories throughout the region.