Government imposes curfew in Lao province after rebel attacks

Anti-communist Hmong guerrillas, like those pictured here in 1961, were active in Xaysomboun but it is unclear if the ethnic group is linked to the current violence. Photo: Air America Archives/Wikimedia Commons.

Authorities in Laos have imposed a curfew in the province of Xaysomboun after a spate of violence in which three soldiers and three civilians were killed.

The government blamed bandits for the attacks, but a source told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that an anti-government group was responsible. No such groups are known to have operated in the tightly controlled country in recent years.

A retired Lao soldier told RFA that security had been boosted to prevent more violence.

“Now people in the province are under curfew. From 6pm they must be inside their houses,” he said. “Government officials [in charge of security at night] have to sleep in bunkers.”

The station reported sources as saying that the three soldiers were killed between November 15 and November 18 when they were pursuing the rebel group, which sustained unknown casualties.

It is believed that the 10-year-old daughter of a military officer was killed in a shootout at his residence on November 12, the retired soldier said.

Ten days after the incident, two people were killed in another shootout on a main road, and there were further gun battles between soldiers and the rebel group in late November and early December.

“Soldiers and people injured are being treated in 103 Military Hospital” in Xaysomboun Province, he said.

“The three soldiers who died in the gunfire exchange are from 584 Brigade in Xaysomboun province. Soldiers have been sent to beef up the security throughout the province and also on the main roads linked to neighbouring provinces.”

Police said the situation in the province was under control.

“The situation in the province is peaceful,” Lieutenant-Colonel Bouanphanh, chief of Xaysomboun’s police department, said on Friday. “We just finished celebrating the Lao National Day this morning.”

Lao National Day is usually celebrated on December 2, but the celebrations in Xaysomboun were put back to December 11 due to security concerns.

Bouanphanh did not reveal details of military casualties.

“The curfew is declared to prohibit people from going out at night for the safety of their properties and lives because the bandit may take advantage to shoot … and rob people,” he said.

Xaysomboun was a base for thousands of ethnic minority Hmong troops, who fought under CIA advisers during the ‘secret war’ against communist forces in the 1960s and 1970s.

After the communists took power in 1975, some hid in the jungle, fearing they might be persecuted for their role in the war.