BANGKOK—A small bomb exploded in the Lao capital Vientiane early Tuesday before the opening of the annual That Luang Fair, injuring an unknown number of people, a security official has told RFA.
One of the injured was in grave condition, the source told RFA’s Lao service. The explosive device was detonated behind the National Assembly building by an inexpensive Chinese-made alarm clock at about 5:30 a.m., within the perimeter of the That Luang temple—one of the holiest sites in Laos.
The blast resounded loudly enough to scare passersby and residents, and the area was quickly cleared, the source said. Victims were treated at the Sayasettha Hospital, less that a half-km from the National Assembly, sources said. Authorities have warned witnesses not to talk about the incident, they said.
A preliminary investigation found that the explosion was caused by one or two long, thin sticks, weighing about .25 kilos each, sources said.
A number of explosions have occurred in the Lao capital in recent years, generally blamed by authorities on “bad elements” opposed to the Communist government. In 2004, three blasts were reported near the Foreign Trade Bank, located on a thoroughfare known as Manthathourath Road in Vientiane.
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 October 2003, when an organization calling itself the Free Democratic People's Government of Laos said it had carried out the bombings.
This year’s festival coincides with the 30th anniversary of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic on Dec. 2, 1975. Namatsakarn Pha That Luang, as it is known is Lao, is the largest festival in the country—held on the full moon of the 12th month to mark the end of religious celebrations for the year.