I was dismayed and angered to read David Whitman's article "Asian Un-Success Stories" {Outlook, Dec. 27}, which dwelled on all the blemishes without giving the reader more than a hint of all the positive things refugees from Indochina have accomplished.

While it may be true that the first-wave refugees (1975-78) have pro-gressed more rapidly than those who arrived later, as a whole the Indochinese refugees have been progressing well and have enjoyed strong support across the United States. Even the Hmong refugees from Laos -- who fought as close U.S. allies in the war there and have had a big adjustment from their rural, highland way of life -- are doing well in many areas. Those in Rhode Island have several businesses and a relatively low welfare rate. In North Carolina, virtually no Hmong are on welfare and 60 percent own their own homes. In Minnesota, where 75 percent of the Hmong population live in St. Paul, the city gives them a positive rating. In his State of the City message on Dec. 8, Mayor George Latimer said:

"The refugee community has been a highly motivated group of people, and many of them have become self-reliant citizens relatively quickly. People in St. Paul generally have a positive impression of the Southeast Asian community, and they are impressed with the courage and tenacity Southeast Asians have shown in adapting to a new life in a strange land."

Even in California, the long-term picture has bright elements -- starting with the approximately 500 Hmong studying at the college level in the Fresno area cited in the article.

The writer ignored that refugees are accepted not for their adaptability, but because they need a country of permanent refuge. Resettlement is never a perfect solution, but compared with the persecution the Hmong and others face in their homelands (often because of their association with the United States), any difficulties here pale. A tragic reminder of the life-and-death stakes is the reported massacre several weeks ago of some or all of 33 Hmong forced back to Laos. Life in America may not be ideal, but it is a lot better than any alternatives.

Certainly, we do not want the many successes of the refugees from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam to obscure the problems that one always encounters in any resettlement process. It is less than balanced, however, to publish an account that amplifies only the negative.

We expect that Indochinese refugees will continue to become self-sufficient and more than repay in tax revenue the costs to the U.S. government of the resettlement process -- not to mention the general enrichment that Southeast Asians have provided to U.S. society. LE XUAN KHOA President, Indochina Resource Action Center Washington