Laos Deploys Patrols to Deter Shootings And Prevent Unrest

2016-05-24
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Locals examine the front of a Chinese passenger bus that was shot by unidentified gunmen in northern Laos, March 23, 2016.
Locals examine the front of a Chinese passenger bus that was shot by unidentified gunmen in northern Laos, March 23, 2016.
Photo courtesy of a motorist

Lao authorities have deployed fast-moving, special armed units to patrol villages and towns to prevent unrest and crime in the provinces in the wake of a string of shootings of individuals and passenger vehicles by unknown assailants.

“The special forces have been established to work on an emergency basis throughout the country so they can prevent crimes, fights and robberies,” a security official, who declined to be named, told RFA’s Lao Service on Monday.

The security details are particularly watching the capital Vientiane and Savannakhet province both day and night, he said.

The patrols will also maintain security in major cities during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summits in November when Laos chairs the 10-member regional bloc, the official said.

Authorities in Vientiane province north of the capital city have also increased police patrols in Kasy district, where shootings of public buses have occurred, a local villager said.

They have deployed 50 soldiers in every village in the district, the villager, who declined to be named, told RFA’s Lao Service on Friday.

“Now many soldiers are maintaining security,” he said. “Their commander uses a helicopter to drop them into each village, as well as along the main roads.”

Spate of shootings

A shootout between Lao soldiers and unidentified armed assailants along a stretch of new road between Vientiane and Luang Prabang provinces on May 6 left one soldier and eight of members of the unknown group dead and others injured, a relative of the deceased soldier and a local health official told RFA  earlier this month.

The shootout occurred along the thoroughfare connecting Kasy district and Luang Prabang province’s Nanh district, where two other deadly attacks by unknown gunmen, referred to by government authorities as “bandits,” took place in March.

A bus shooting by unknown assailants in March left one Chinese national dead and six others wounded on the stretch of road between Tham and Houasan villages in Kasy. And a January attack on a public bus traveling along Route 13 North in the district injured one of about a dozen passengers.

Earlier this month, military and police officials in Vientiane province arrested 30 people suspected of being involved in the bus shooting.

“With the increased security by soldiers, people and tourists are going out at night, but they dare not stay out too late,” the villager said, adding that he had no further information about the May 6 shooting.

‘No more unrest’

Authorities in north-central Xaysomboun province, where other armed attacks have occurred, say the situation there improved after they stepped up patrols by soldiers.

“The military officials told me that the general situation in the province is basically better,” said a retired soldier close to a high-ranking officer in the Ministry of Defense, speaking on condition of anonymity. “There is no more unrest.”

An exchange of gunfire between a Lao anti-government resistance group and local troops in Xaysomboun last November left three government soldiers dead and others injured, he told RFA in a previous report.

A month later, 15 attackers shot two motorcyclists in the province’s Anouvong district, killing one and injuring the other. The alleged bandits shot at a truck transporting beer in the district three days later, injuring two people in the vehicle.

“From the end of last year until February, there was high tension in the province, and people were not allowed to go out at night,” the retired soldier said.

Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Ounkeo Souksavanh. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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