Another Chinese worker killed in Laos

The state’s grip on rural Laos is weak. Source: Wikimedia

A Chinese national has been killed and three were wounded in what has been called a “militant” attack in Laos, the state media reported.

It would be the second confirmed attack involving Chinese workers this year.

The Chinese consulate in western Laos’ Luang Prabang province confirmed Tuesday’s attack, “which was aimed at a shed of a Chinese-invested company”, reported the state Xinhua news agency.

The wounded workers received hospital treatment and security forces were “sent to wipe out the militants”, according to the Beijing agency.

The report did not give details and is not known if the Chinese workers were intentionally targeted. The landlocked, communist country of about 6.8 million people is notoriously secretive and it is difficult for the international media to report on events.

Xinhua also said a separate attack occurred at around the same time in the region targeting a bus and a pickup truck in which at least five Laotian citizens were injured.

Two Chinese nationals were killed and another wounded in a suspected bomb blast in Laos in late January.

The earlier attack occurred in the remote Xaysomboun region, which has seen intermittent conflict between the authorities and ethnic Hmong militants for decade.

Rural Laos has few reliable roads and huge areas are littered with unexploded Vietnam-war era bombs making it challenging for the authorities to establish control.

Laos is moving away from its traditionally muted role in international affairs as it takes over the Asean chair. Over the weekend the bloc’s 10 foreign ministers met in Vientiane for an agenda-setting meeting.

While economic issues and the South China Sea disagreement dominate the Asean agenda, NGOs and activists say that Vientiane should be held to account for the abduction of community development worker Sombath Somphone in 2012. It was widely believed to have been carried out by the authorities despite official denials.

“The Lao authorities have steadfastly refused to investigate the enforced disappearance of Sombath Somphone and have even introduced new draconian measures to limit civil society,” Amnesty International campaigner Janice Beanland said. “The diplomatic community must make much stronger attempts to encourage Laos to break with the past and its blatant disregard for fundamental freedoms of everyone.

“Asean as an organisation is failing to respond to the clamour from citizens in the region to address human rights issues. It is difficult to see any signs that the human rights situation is going to improve in the near future. Severe restrictions on expression, association and peaceful assembly continue to make it a blind-spot for human rights in Southeast Asia,” Beanland said.