‘Robbery’ Likely Motive Behind Murder of Ethnic Chinese Businessman in Lao Capital: Police

laos-xaysana-yotsavanh-undated.jpg Xaysana Yotsavanh in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of Xaysana's Facebook page

The head of China’s Hunan Province Chamber of Commerce in Laos was murdered over the weekend during an invasion of his home in the Lao capital Vientiane, authorities said Wednesday, adding that the preliminary results of an investigation into the case suggest robbery was the motive.

Xaysana Yotsavath, also known by his Chinese name Li Zhao Peng, was found in bed on Aug. 12 at his home in Vientiane’s Sikhottabong district with multiple stab wounds to the back and significant trauma to his head, a police officer told RFA’s Lao Service, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the ongoing probe.

“He was murdered in the bedroom and his valuable items were taken,” the officer said of the 42-year-old Lao citizen of Chinese origin.

“[The murder motive] might be robbery and the police are investigating a potential group of perpetrators.”

CCTV camera footage taken on Aug. 12 from outside of Xaysana’s home appears to show two individuals leaving the area carrying several heavy bags, but police have been unable to identify the suspects.

Leaked photos from the crime scene also suggest that his home had been rifled through, with a safe and briefcase lying open, in addition to a bed covered in bloodied sheets.

Xaysana was a successful businessman who presided over a construction company, an electrical installation firm and a charitable foundation. The member of the Laos-China Friendship Association also owned the Dihao Hotel and karaoke club in downtown Vientiane, sources said.

Xaysana’s younger brother told RFA that the businessman was killed “around 7:00 a.m. or 8:00 a.m.” on the morning of Aug. 12, and that when he arrived at Xaysana’s home after being notified by police, his brother’s body had already been moved to the hospital.

“Somebody killed him and the police have yet to arrest anyone,” he said.

“If the police had been able to identify the suspects [from the CCTV video], they would have been arrested.”

Another family member said all that is known about the perpetrators is what the CCTV footage showed.

“Two suspects walked into the house and killed him and [walked out] with bags of money,” the family member said.

“The reason for his murder remains unknown—whether it is related to a personal conflict or a robbery. We don’t know anything about his business activities.”

Xaysana’s family has offered a reward of U.S. $200,000 to anyone who can provide police with evidence leading to the arrest of his murderers.

The official Vientiane Times cited a statement from the Chinese embassy in the capital, saying officials there were aware of Xaysana’s murder.

Growing Chinese influence

Chinese investment has ramped up in Laos in recent years, and with it have come several murders of high-profile ethnic Chinese businessmen and women.

In October last year, Su Wang Tien, the 60-year-old Taiwanese operator of the Sikhay Plaza shopping mall in Sikhottabong district, was shot to death by assailants on a motorcycle in an incident that is believed to have stemmed from a business dispute.

Police have said they believe his assassins are foreign nationals, and no arrests have been made in the case.

And in July 2016, Lee-Yen Tin, the 45-year-old Chinese manager of the Sang Chieng Chinese trade center in Sikhottabong, was shot to death during an attempted robbery as she and her husband walked along a road in Vientiane.

A witness said a man and a woman pulled up on a motorbike, confronted the couple with a gun, and demanded her handbag. When she refused, the woman on the bike shot her in the back, killing her instantly.

Thousands of ethnic Chinese live in the vicinity of the Sang Chieng Chinese trade center and regularly conduct business at the market.

Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Ounkeo Souksavanh and Lane Xang. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

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