An exchange of gunfire between Lao soldiers and unidentified armed forces along a 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 said.
The shootout occurred on the thoroughfare connecting Kasy district of central Laos’ Vientiane province’s and Luang Prabang province’s Nanh district, where two other deadly attacks by unknown assailants referred to by government authorities as “bandits” took place in March.
Second Lieutenant Santhi, a soldier who died during the attack, was from Nanh district’s military division, said one of his relatives who declined to be named and did not provide the soldier’s surname.
The assailants shot Santhi dead while he was walking in front of the other soldiers, the relative said, adding that he didn’t know if the soldiers were in pursuit of the gunmen.
“Brothers and sisters at home informed me that Santhi had passed away during the exchange of fire,” he said, adding that others were also killed.
Authorities later sent Santhi’s body to his hometown in Thinkeo village, Xieng-ngun district, in Luang Prabang province, the relative said.
But authorities have not issued an official report on the others who were killed and injured, he said.
A health official at the hospital in Luang Prabang told RFA that eight members of the unidentified armed group were killed and others arrested after they purchased medicine in the town to treat their injuries.
“But I don’t know how many people were arrested afterwards,” she said.
Government soldiers wounded in the shootout were sent to military hospital 103 in Vientiane for treatment, she said.
Lieutenant Colonel Peankham Boutchanpheng, deputy chief of Luang Prabang’s military headquarters told RFA that he had no further information about the shootout.
“Santhi’s funeral was on May 7, but I cannot provide more details,” he said
One of many incidents
The incident is one of many shootings by unidentified armed groups that have occurred in Vientiane province, north-central Xaysomboun province, and Luang Prabang province since last November.
In March, a bus shooting by unknown assailants left one Chinese national dead and six others wounded on the stretch of road between Tham and Houasan villages in Kasy.
Another attack in January on a public bus traveling along Route 13 North in Kasy injured one of about a dozen passengers, but caused no deaths.
Military and police officials in Vientiane province have arrested 30 people suspected of being involved in the bus shooting.
A shooting in Phoukhoun district of Luang Prabang province in early March killed a Chinese man and injured three other Chinese nationals, all of whom worked for a logging company clearing land for the Nam Ngum 3 hydropower dam project.
On the same day as the shooting near the dam, gunmen mounted two separate attacks on a public bus and a truck traveling along Route 13 North in Phoukhoun, injuring five people.
An exchange of gunfire between a Lao anti-government resistance group and local troops in Xaysomboun last November left three government soldiers dead and some others injured, a retired Lao soldier close to a high-ranking officer in the Ministry of Defense told RFA in an earlier 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.
Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Ounkeo Souksavanh. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.