GROUP CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY FOR LAO GRENADE ATTACKS


2003.10.29
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A group calling itself the Free Democratic People�s Government of Laos is claiming responsibility for a series of grenade attacks in Laos that have killed four people and injured dozens of others since 2000, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports.

A one-page statement faxed to RFA�s Lao service in Bangkok on Oct. 27 said the previously unknown group planned and executed a string of bombings in the Lao capital, Vientiane, and elsewhere, beginning in 2000. Until now, no one had claimed responsibility for the attacks, whose motives remain unclear.

�The [Lao] government should stop blaming outsiders for these bombings. We are responsible,� the group said in an undated fax apparently sent from Nongkhai Province in Thailand. �We are in Laos.�

"Why did you bring Vietnamese troops and station them with the Lao military all over the country?� the statement said, referring to thousands of Vietnamese troops reportedly stationed in Laos since the 1970s. �Is it to help you massacre citizens who may take up arms to fight you?�

No further information on the group, nor any comment from the Lao government, was immediately available. Vientiane authorities have repeatedly asserted that all of the attacks were planned outside of Laos.

Most recently, a spokesman for the Lao government, Kengchai Sisounonh, confirmed in an interview with RFA�s Lao service that a grenade attack had occurred Oct. 19 in Vientiane. He described the attack, near the Khoua Din evening market, as the result of a personal dispute. Other sources reported a second attack on the same day, Oct. 19, in southern Laos, at the Souvantxay market in Khanthabouly town, Savannakhet Province. The explosion killed two people and injured at least five. At least 10 people were injured in an explosion at a Vientiane bus station on Aug. 4.

On Sept. 4, two Lao nationals were jailed for life in connections with attacks in Vientiane from 2000-2001. Bunlot Senkeo and Thao Khonsavane were sentenced for "sabotaging national security" and "disturbing public order,� according to the Lao official media. Another defendant, Suonthao Khamtane, was handed a 14-month sentence for failing to report their crime to the authorities.

Foreign diplomats and analysts believe anti-government factions among the Hmong ethnic minority, or exiled anti-communists, may be behind the attacks.

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