BANGKOK—The U.S. State Department is warning of possible bombings by anti-government groups during a summit of Southeast Asian leaders in late November.
"The U.S. Embassy in Vientiane has received information that during the ASEAN summit conference, persons associated with anti-Lao government groups may be planning to detonate several explosive devices…"
In a travel advisory, the State Department said it had no details of potential targets or methods during the Nov. 25-30 annual meeting of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).
But it warned Americans to exercise “extreme caution” during the gathering of 10 Southeast Asian nations, plus China, South Korea, India, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.
“The U.S. Embassy in Vientiane has received information that during the ASEAN summit conference, persons associated with anti-Lao government groups may be planning to detonate several explosive devices in Vientiane as well as in the following provinces of Laos: Bolikhamxai, Khammouan, Savannakhet, Salavan and Champassak,” the State Department said in a travel advisory dated Oct.22, 2004 and made available on the Web.
“No further information is available at this time regarding specific targets or methods. In addition, travel between locations may be difficult. There may also be difficulties obtaining visas on arrival at the Wattay Airport and at the Friendship Bridge border crossing from Thailand during this time frame.”
“In light of these incidents and threat information, the Department of State recommends that U.S. citizens traveling or residing in Laos exercise extreme caution in public places and be alert to their surroundings, since the locations of future incidents is unpredictable,” it said.
“In particular, U.S. citizens should continue to avoid traveling by road between Vang Vieng and Luang Phrabang and on Route 7 from the Route 13 junction to Phonsavan town and in surrounding areas.”
Lao Foreign Ministry spokesman Yong Chanthalansy said Laos had no information about such threats and urged Washington to share its information.
“Instead of sharing their intelligence with us, they have made the warnings in the public. I don't understand why they have done this,” Reuters quoted Yong as saying. “Although Laos is a very small country, it is one of the safest countries in the region.”
ASEAN groups Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Brunei, Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
Unknown militants have sporadically attacked markets, bus stations, and border checkpoints the past four years in Laos, which has been under Communist rule since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.
At least 22 people, including two Swiss tourists, were killed last year in bus ambushes on a highway between Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang, popular tourist destinations.
Between February and April of this year, attacks on buses and other vehicles on the same route and another highway to the northeastern town of Phonesavan left at least 12 people dead.
Clashes have also erupted between suspected anti-government insurgents and Lao security forces in the area, which U.S. citizens have repeatedly been told to avoid.