The circumstances of the flight of four ethnic groups from Laos are described and cornpared. It is found that different ethnic groups defined the fall of the Laotian government in 1975 differently. This affected why, how and when they fled. It is stressed that any explanation of refugee behavior must be in terms not only of individual motivation but also of group behavior. Conclusions are drawn about the role that social networks, sanctuary opportunities, perceptions of family unity, class, clanship, patron-client relationships and traditions of mobility can play in making the decision to flee.