Military and police officials in central Laos’ Vientiane province have arrested 30 people suspected of being involved in a bus shooting last month that left one Chinese national dead and six others wounded, a local resident with knowledge of the situation said Thursday.
The arrests occurred on April 7 along a road between Nanhiew and Nakangpa villages in the province’s Met district after a truck the suspects were traveling in ran out of gas, the source who witnessed the arrests said.
They robbed some road construction workers at gunpoint and knife-point to get money for petrol, but one of the workers called the police, who, along with military officers, were able to apprehend the men, he said.
“The suspects were brutally beaten by the police and military officials,” said the local resident who declined to be named. “The villagers who saw the incident dare not talk publicly about it.”
A Met district police officer who gave his name as Poy told RFA that local authorities had the situation under control, but could not give any information about it.
“There is no problem, and the situation is peaceful," he said. “We cannot tell any outsiders because it is an internal affair.”
He declined to say if the 30 suspects had been arrested in Vientiane district.
Long list of shootings
Unknown attackers referred to as “bandits” have been involved in other shooting incidences in both Vientiane and north-central Xaysomboun province since last November.
During that month, an exchange of gunfire between a Lao anti-government resistance group and local troops in Xaysomboun left three government soldiers dead and some others injured.
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.
On Jan. 14, a midnight attack on a public bus traveling along Route 13 North in Vientiane province’s Kasy district, injured one of about a dozen passengers, but caused no deaths.
A shooting in Phoukhoun district of Luang Prabang province on March 1 killed a Chinese man and injured three other Chinese nationals who were working for a logging company clearing land for the Nam Ngum 3 hydropower dam project.
On the same day as the shooting near the dam, bandits mounted two separate attacks on a public bus and a truck traveling along Route 13 North in Phoukhoun, injuring five people.
As for arrests in the other shootings, a retired soldier who is close to a high-ranking official in the Lao Ministry of National Defense told RFA on Wednesday that authorities in Xaysomboun province have arrested 50 suspects in the attacks that occurred there late last year.
Although unrest in the mountainous provinces of central Laos is nothing new, the shootings have made it difficult for the government to ignore them because of the effects on local development and the lives of area residents.
Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Ounkeo Souksavanh. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.