Laos tightens border controls after new fatal shooting of Chinese

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Thai-Lao border station_Arno Maierbrgger
Thai-Lao border station ©Arno Maierbrugger

The Lao government issued an urgent order for stricter controls of foreigners entering the country after several recent incidents of violent gun attacks on Chinese expatriates occurred, and armed robbers assaulted and killed a number of people in roadside attacks and 20 foreigners were arrested for possessing war-grade weapons and drugs.

Everyone entering Laos from March 7 must have “complete documents,” the order says, indicating that crossing into Laos without complete documents was an option in the past. It also imposes more thorough vehicles checking before private cars and transport trucks are allowed to enter the country.

Currently, citizens of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, do not require a visa for Laos for a stay not exceeding 30 days, except of Brunei (14 days visa-free) and Myanmar (14 days). Citizens from Mongolia are also visa-exempt (30 days), as well as from Russia, Japan, South Korea, Switzerland and Luxembourg (all 15 days visa-free).

Visitors of most other nationalities, including Chinese, may obtain a visa on arrival valid for 30 days, except those from most North and Central African states, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Jordan, Turkey, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Lesotho, Swaziland and, for some reason, Suriname, Nauru and Tonga who are all obliged to arrange a visa in advance.

Laos has been the scene of a sudden spate of deadly bomb and gun attacks in its central province of Xaisomboun which is popular with adventure travelers and mountaineers, but also with Chinese investors in the mining and rubber industry.

Two roadside attacks killed three people in the province in end-January, whereby one of the victims was an employee of a Chinese mining firm. Those attacks followed a series of shootings at the end of last year, and soldiers defused another bomb on the same road in early December.

On March 1, another Chinese man was killed and eight other people were injured in three near-simultaneous shootings about 160 kilometers north of the capital Vientiane, in one case while they were logging in the area. The shootings took place as local villagers are becoming increasingly restive over construction and logging operations by Chinese companies which are alleged of land grabbing and causing environmental problems related to mining and hydropower plant building.

Two separate attacks on the same day targeted a public bus and a truck.

Speculations are that some of the shootings might also have to do with a decade-old quasi-insurgency of the Hmong minority, a relic of the Vietnam war. Hmong insurgents are still getting involved in regular clashes with the Lao army in remote jungle areas.

The US already issued an official warning on February 12 urging its citizens to avoid traveling to Xaisomboun. The flaring-up of violence comes at an inconvenient moment for the Lao government which took over the ASEAN chair at the beginning of this year and will hold dozens of official conferences, events and gatherings of domestic and foreign officials throughout 2016.

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Thai-Lao border station ©Arno Maierbrugger

The Lao government issued an urgent order for stricter controls of foreigners entering the country after several recent incidents of violent gun attacks on Chinese expatriates occurred, and armed robbers assaulted and killed a number of people in roadside attacks and 20 foreigners were arrested for possessing war-grade weapons and drugs.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Thai-Lao border station_Arno Maierbrgger
Thai-Lao border station ©Arno Maierbrugger

The Lao government issued an urgent order for stricter controls of foreigners entering the country after several recent incidents of violent gun attacks on Chinese expatriates occurred, and armed robbers assaulted and killed a number of people in roadside attacks and 20 foreigners were arrested for possessing war-grade weapons and drugs.

Everyone entering Laos from March 7 must have “complete documents,” the order says, indicating that crossing into Laos without complete documents was an option in the past. It also imposes more thorough vehicles checking before private cars and transport trucks are allowed to enter the country.

Currently, citizens of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, do not require a visa for Laos for a stay not exceeding 30 days, except of Brunei (14 days visa-free) and Myanmar (14 days). Citizens from Mongolia are also visa-exempt (30 days), as well as from Russia, Japan, South Korea, Switzerland and Luxembourg (all 15 days visa-free).

Visitors of most other nationalities, including Chinese, may obtain a visa on arrival valid for 30 days, except those from most North and Central African states, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Jordan, Turkey, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Lesotho, Swaziland and, for some reason, Suriname, Nauru and Tonga who are all obliged to arrange a visa in advance.

Laos has been the scene of a sudden spate of deadly bomb and gun attacks in its central province of Xaisomboun which is popular with adventure travelers and mountaineers, but also with Chinese investors in the mining and rubber industry.

Two roadside attacks killed three people in the province in end-January, whereby one of the victims was an employee of a Chinese mining firm. Those attacks followed a series of shootings at the end of last year, and soldiers defused another bomb on the same road in early December.

On March 1, another Chinese man was killed and eight other people were injured in three near-simultaneous shootings about 160 kilometers north of the capital Vientiane, in one case while they were logging in the area. The shootings took place as local villagers are becoming increasingly restive over construction and logging operations by Chinese companies which are alleged of land grabbing and causing environmental problems related to mining and hydropower plant building.

Two separate attacks on the same day targeted a public bus and a truck.

Speculations are that some of the shootings might also have to do with a decade-old quasi-insurgency of the Hmong minority, a relic of the Vietnam war. Hmong insurgents are still getting involved in regular clashes with the Lao army in remote jungle areas.

The US already issued an official warning on February 12 urging its citizens to avoid traveling to Xaisomboun. The flaring-up of violence comes at an inconvenient moment for the Lao government which took over the ASEAN chair at the beginning of this year and will hold dozens of official conferences, events and gatherings of domestic and foreign officials throughout 2016.

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