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Hmong General Denied Arlington Cemetery Burial

The casket containing Hmong war hero and community leader General Vang Pao is unloaded from a horse drawn carriage at the start of his five day funeral in Fresno, Central California, February 4, 2011

The United States Army has denied a request to allow United States Army has denied a request to allow former Royal Lao Army general Vang Pao, a U.S. ally in the Vietnam War, to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Officials informed Vang Pao's friends and family of their decision Friday, as thousands of mourners gathered in the western U.S. state of California for the start of a six-day funeral service there.

Arlington Cemetery, outside Washington, is the premier burial ground for members of the U.S. military. It is considered an honor to be buried there.

California lawmaker Jim Costa had led a group requesting permission for the revered Hmong military leader to be given a place. But according to the French news agency, AFP, an army spokesman told Vang Pao's friend a review board wanted to reserve the spaces for U.S. service personnel.

It was not clear where Vang Pao's remains will be buried if a planned appeal is denied.

Vang Pao commanded a CIA-backed secret army of Hmong guerrillas during the Vietnam War. He died last month at the age of 81.

Vang Pao led an irregular army in the 1960s and '70s in the U.S.-funded covert war against Vietnamese and Lao Communist forces.

He immigrated to the U.S. in 1975 after communists ousted Laos' royal rulers.

Vang Pao is credited with brokering the resettlement of thousands of Hmong hill people in cities around the United States.