A Chinese man was killed and eight other people were injured this week in three near-simultaneous shootings about 125 miles north of the Lao capital of Vientiane, RFA’s Lao Service has learned.
On March 1, a shooting in Phoukhoun district in Luang Prabang province killed a Chinese man and injured three other Chinese nationals who were working for a logging company that is clearing land for the Nam Ngum 3 hydropower project, according to a retired soldier with high-ranking contacts and Lao authorities.
“On March first, a group of armed people shot the Chinese workers around 8 p.m. as they were logging in Viengkham village in Luang Prabang province’s Phoukhoun district,” said the retired soldier who spoke on condition of anonymity. “The shooting left one Chinese dead and three Chinese injured.”
The shooting comes as local villagers are becoming increasingly restive over construction of the dam on the Ngum River. It is unclear who carried out the shooting, but the dam has caused ill feelings in the area as it will uproot the local communities and destroy their way of life.Those feelings of ill will are exacerbated as the villagers are prohibited from cutting the timber themselves.
“The villagers disagree with the government’s decision to have the Chinese to do the logging near their community, and they do not want to be removed from their homes,” the retired soldier said. “The conflict has taken place since last year.”
Dam building is at a fever pace on rivers throughout Southeast Asia. Laos has made hydroelectric power production a priority as the government wants the nation to become one of the top exporters of electricity in the region.
On the same day as the shooting near the dam, what are described as bandits mounted two separate attacks on on a public bus and a truck traveling on Route 13 North also in the Phoukhoun district. Five were injured in those attacks and they are being treated in Luang Prabang hospital, health officials told RFA.
One of the injured sent for treatment in Vientiane is a soldier in charge of security on the bus. He is now he is being treated at a military hospital in the capital city, according to authorities.
Luang Prabang authorities told RFA that soldiers have been sent to hunt the bandits.
That shooting marks the second time in 2016 that people described as bandits have attacked a bus on Route 13. The road connects Vientiane to Luang Prabang in the north and roughly follows the line of the Mekong River down to the border with Cambodia.
Unrest in the mountainous provinces in central Laos is nothing new, but recent violent incidents have made it difficult for the government to ignore because of the effect on local development and the lives of area residents.
Major General Thongloy Silivong, a member of the Party Central Committee and former chief of the National Defense Academy, was appointed the new party secretary of nearby Xaysomboun province on Feb. 16. His selection is widely seen as a move to tamp down violence there.
Lao authorities imposed a curfew in the north-central part of the province in early December after a spate of violence the previous month in which three government soldiers and three civilians were killed.
Last month, a bomb blast at a road construction site near a work camp outside Pha Nok Kok village, Long Cheang district, killed two Chinese officials and injured a third, and forced work on the project to stop temporarily. Previously, soldiers defused another bomb on the same road in Namphanoy village on Dec. 30.
Reported by RFA's Lao Service. Translated by Ounkeo Souksavanh. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.