An early morning bomb blast at a road construction site near a military camp in Laos’ Xaysomboun province killed two Chinese officials and injured a third on Jan 24, RFA’s Lao Service has learned.
The explosion near a work camp outside the Pha Nok Kok village in the Long Cheang district occurred about 8 a.m. damaging a vehicle and forcing construction on the road project to be halted. The blast marked the third explosion in the area in less than a month. Soldiers defused another bomb on the road in Namphanoy village on Dec. 30.
“While I was driving past the spot where the vehicle was bombed, I saw about 10 soldiers who were inspecting it with the dead and injured inside,” a witness told RFA. “When I was there and saw the truck damaged on the right side. The soldiers did not allow people to approach the truck. The truck attacked by the bomb is not far from the venue where soldiers were on duty.”
An official with the construction company, who requested anonymity so he could talk about the incident, said the company was pulling its equipment from the construction site.
“The company decided to remove all the construction machinery from the site for safety reasons,” the official said,
Police at the Xaysomboun province police station refused to comment on the explosion, but Chinese authorities in Vientiane confirmed that the victims were Chinese. A report on Xinhuanet – the website of China’s official Xinhua news agency – said Beijing was demanding an investigation. Xinhuanet also reported that one of the Chinese worked for a mining company from southwestern China's Yunnan Province, which borders Laos.
Official silence over the bombing is not unusual as the Lao government, which controls all media in the one-party state, looks like it’s trying to keep a lid on incidents of violence in the mountainous region. The central Lao province with a population of some 82,000 has seen a rise in violence recently.
The killing of Chinese nationals will be harder to keep quiet.
"This incident cannot be hidden because the victims are Chinese, but if it happens to Laos, it will be kept silent,” said one Vientiane resident, who requested anonymity. “The Lao officials will say nothing happens as usual, but it is not normal in Xaysombaun province, because it has become a case of monthly attacks since November last year.”
While Lao officials like to blame the violent unrest on “bandits,” Laos are beginning to think that there is more than criminals at work this time.
The following is a list of bombings and shooting incidents reported by RFA:
Lao’s secretive government has stopped short of identifying individuals or groups who might have perpetrated the attacks and there have been no claims of responsibility or political statements issued in connection with the incidents.
Discontentment among the Lao populace has focused on widespread corruption, wasteful government spending and poor delivery of government services. Some people have complained about the rapidly growing presence of Chinese investors, who are criticized for environmental damage, illegal logging, wildlife poaching and bringing vices like gambling and prostitution to rural Laos.
Authorities in multi-ethnic Laos have long been wary of opposition among the Hmong ethnic minority, many of whom say they face persecution from the government because of their Vietnam War-era ties with the United States.
Thousands of Hmong fought under CIA advisers during a so-called “secret war” against communists in Laos.
General Vang Pao, who spearheaded the 15-year CIA-sponsored war, was an outspoken opponent of the Lao government who emigrated to the United States after the communists seized power in his country in 1975 and died in California in 2011 at the age of 81.
Since 2000, Laos has sustained periodic shootings and bomb attacks on transportation hubs and border checkpoints by suspected insurgents.
Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Ounkeo Souksavanh. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.