BANGKOK, May 11, 2004�One person has died and three others were injured when a previously unreported bomb exploded at a bus stop in southern Laos, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports.

"On the early evening of May 1 there was a bomb explosion not far from KM-3 bus stop in Khantaboury district of Savannakhet Province, killing one and injuring three," a Lao national security official told RFA's Lao service.

It appears the event went unreported. Usually after such a blast, Lao officials cordon off the location and control the scene with instructions for witnesses to keep quiet and avoid publicizing what they saw.

"The reason why Lao authorities try to cover up the bomb explosions is they don't want to frighten the general population, and they are afraid the bomb explosion might undermine national security under the tight control of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, which in turn will impact the service industry and tourism directly," the official said.

The only bomb explosion the Lao government has acknowledged so far is a blast on May 2, when a time bomb exploded in the capital Vientiane, killing the suspected bomber before he was able to plant it. That explosion also occurred at around 8 p.m. on a Sunday, near a building now occupied by the Lao Women's Union, police sources told RFA's Lao service. The building, located on a thoroughfare known as Manthathourath Road, was formerly occupied by the Lao Civil Aviation office.

Three people were also injured in two bomb blasts over the weekend on the outskirts of Vientiane, but the Lao government has insisted only one "accident" occurred. A bomb went off late Saturday in a parking lot adjacent to the Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge during official celebrations marking the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Mekong River bridge. Three people were injured, a Toyota pickup truck was destroyed and several other cars parked nearby sustained minor damage.

The first Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge across the Mekong River opened in April 1994. It links the northeastern Thai province of Nongkhai to the Lao capital Vientiane. The Lao government held a ceremony commemorating the anniversary in Vientiane on May 1.

Foreign ministry spokesman Yong Chanthalangsy denied there had been a bomb attack. "People were celebrating around the bridge. There were lots of firecrackers and rockets, but then there was an accident and three people were injured but not too seriously. A fourth person also had very minor wounds," Agence France-Presse quoted him as saying.

Yong also rejected as "false" a report by RFA that another bomb exploded on Sunday evening around 200 meters from the Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge on the road leading to the Thadeua border post. "I don't know anything about that," he said. "Radio Free Asia is always trying to undermine the country."

Two earlier explosions in February and April caused no injuries.

Vientiane was rocked by 14 bombings between 2000 and 2001 in which four people were killed and more than 40 injured. No one claimed responsibility until last October, when an organization calling itself the Free Democratic People's Government of Laos said it was behind them.

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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