Witnesses told to keep quiet

WASHINGTON, July 28, 2003--Unidentified gunmen have staged another highway ambush in northern Laos, and authorities have told witnesses not to dicuss the incident, Radio Free Asia (RFA) has learned.

The ambush occurred July 25 along Highway 13, some 20 kilometers from Muong Kasi, sources told RFA's Lao service. Gunmen attacked a pick-up truck containing six passengers. Whether anyone was killed or injured was unknown, according to Lao sources who spoke on condition of anonymity. Witnesses to the ambush were told to keep quiet, they said.

This is the third confirmed ambush in the northern part of Vientiane Province in the last six months. The first two incidents occurred in February and April and left more than 20 people dead, including two Swiss tourists and one Chinese national.

No one has claimed responsibility for the July 25 ambush, but one well-placed Lao source said he believed it was aimed at drawing negative attention to the Southeast Asian country ahead of a vote in the U.S. Congress on whether to grant Laos favorable terms for bilateral trade.

No comment was immediately available from local authorities.

RFA broadcasts news and information to Asian listeners who lack regular access to full and balanced reporting in their domestic media. Through its broadcasts and call-in programs, RFA aims to fill a critical gap in the lives of people across Asia. Created by Congress in 1994 and incorporated in 1996, RFA currently broadcasts in Burmese, Cantonese, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Mandarin, the Wu dialect, Vietnamese, Tibetan (Uke, Amdo and Kham) and Uyghur. It adheres to the highest standards of journalism and aims to exemplify accuracy, balance and fairness in its editorial content. #####


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