Posts tagged ‘Vientiane’

October 17, 2013

Lao Airlines plane crashes into Mekong river, killing 44

Reuters U.S. Edition

Lao Airlines plane crashes into Mekong river, killing 44

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BANGKOK | Wed Oct 16, 2013 1:22pm EDT

(L to R) Manfred Rhodes, 17 months, Phoumalaysy (Lea) Rhodes, 35 years, Jadesuda Rhodes, 3 years and Gavin Rhodes, 39 years, who died when their Laos Airline Flight.

(Reuters) – A Lao Airlines plane flying in stormy weather crashed into the Mekong river in southern Laos on Wednesday, killing all 44 people on board, among them nationals of 10 countries.

The virtually new ATR-72 turboprop plane flying from the capital Vientiane crashed at about 4.10 p.m. (0910 GMT) just eight kilometers (five miles) short of its destination Pakse, which is near the borders of both Thailand and Cambodia.

The airline said in a statement it had yet to determine the cause of the crash, in which a senior aviation official said the tail end of Typhoon Nari may have been a factor.

Those killed were mostly Lao nationals. But seven French nationals were also killed, the country’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said.

South Koreans, Australians, Canadians, Taiwanese, Chinese, Burmese and Vietnamese and five Thais were also among the dead, said Thailand’s foreign ministry spokesman, Sek Wannamethee.

Several officials confirmed none of the passengers or crew survived.

Lao Airlines is the national carrier of the communist state and has operated since 1976. Its aircraft carried 658,000 passengers last year and it has a fleet of just 14 planes, mostly propeller-driven.

Southern Laos was affected by Typhoon Nari, which hit the region on Tuesday killing 13 people in the Philippines and five in Vietnam.

Vestiges of the storm might have caused the plane to crash, Yakua Lopangka, Director General of the Department of Civil Aviation, told the Vientiane Times newspaper.

Thai television showed a photograph of the plane partly submerged in shallow water on a stretch of the Mekong, the tail severed, next to a handful of rescuers in small boats.

State-run news agency KPL quoted a witness saying strong gusts of wind blew the plane off course and rescue attempts were complicated by a lack of roads near the crash site.

Lao Airlines has six ATR-72 planes, a European turbo-prop aircraft co-manufactured by Airbus parent EADS and Italian aerospace firm Finmeccanica.

In a statement, ATR said the aircraft that crashed was its latest ATR 72-600 model, designed to seat between 68 and 74 people. It had left the production line in March this year.

ATR said Laos authorities would lead an investigation into the crash, whose cause had not been determined.

Lao Airlines operates on seven domestic routes and has international flights to China, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore.

(Reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Martin Petty; additional reporting by John Irish and Tim Hepher in Paris; editing by John Stonestreet and Tom Pfeiffer)


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August 2, 2013

Laos residents lose capital land battle

Vientiane Authorities Say That Luang Area Belongs to Investors

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By Radio Free Asia

That Luang Marsh, August 2010.

Authorities in Laos have issued an order informing hold-out residents of an area in the capital slated for a massive urban development project that they are not to sell their land as it now belongs to the site’s developers from China.

The order came amid general concerns of government mismanagement and corruption in disputes between residents and investors.

The planned U.S. $1.6 billion project under construction in Vientiane’s That Luang marsh area has been hailed as a showpiece commercial center in the fast-growing capital, but residents say they were offered compensation less than one-tenth of market value for their land.

The 1.25 square mile (3.25 square kilometer) That Luang Marsh Specific Economic Zone broke ground in December, but while a majority of residents have accepted the pay out, more than 100 families had held out for more, refusing to move from the site.

Recently the Vientiane municipal government issued an order prohibiting all sale, purchase, and transfer of land in eight villages in Xaysettha district, where the project is located, an official in charge of administering Special and Specific Economic Zones told RFA’s Lao Service.

According to the order, the villages are included in the 365-hectares (900-acre) concession granted to Chinese project developer Shanghai Wan Feng Group, he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The eight villages in Xaysettha district include Houa Khoua, Non Savang, Vangxay, Non Sanga, Nong Nieng, Chommany, Viengchaleun, and Phonephanao.

“No consideration will be given” to people who claim they are the lawful owners of the land and property in the villages, the official said, though the government will provide monetary compensation to those who give up their land for the project, he said without elaborating on the reimbursement scheme.

The development project is part of an effort to modernize Vientiane and draw increased tourism to the city. It will include a public park, sports complex, shopping mall, entertainment complex, and service centers.

The SEZ will also provide infrastructure for businesses trying to establish a presence in the capital.

Some 435 families have been affected by the project and residents complain they have had little say in the decision-making process about development in the area, for which plans have been in the works for several years.

In 2010, plans for an even bigger urban development project on a 3.9-square-mile (10-square-kilometer) area in the same location by a different Chinese developer were scrapped because, according to then-minister of planning and investment Sinlavong Khoutphaythoune, the company was reluctant to pay U.S. $400 million in relocation compensation to the roughly 7,000 affected households.

Dispute factors

A senior State Inspection Agency official told RFA this week that land disputes between companies granted concessions and Lao citizens are largely due to government mismanagement and corruption.

He did not cite any specific project.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said that the most common practices by local government that lead to land disputes are granting concessions without first surveying or measuring land and using land as capital for development projects.

He said other practices include the relocation of people impacted by development at drastically low rates of compensation and abuse of power by officials who are bribed to seize land from residents to lease to investors.

Over the past three years, he said, inspections have shown that bribery is a common malpractice among officials, in addition to the use of threats and referring to false laws to force unwitting citizens from their land.

Even when residents who are more informed about their legal rights fight back, they are often at a disadvantage, he said, adding that more than 4,000 lawsuits against the government are currently languishing in courts across the country.

According to field inspections, the official said, government land concessions often encroach on private land, while investors granted concessions frequently encroach upon national forest reserves to carry out illegal activities such as cutting down trees for export.

Laos, one of the least developed Southeast Asian states, has become the subject of massive foreign investment, especially from companies from China, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Much of Laos’s economic growth has come from land concessions for natural resources—including timber, agricultural products, minerals, and energy—but some worry that it comes at a cost for those who lose their land.

Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Viengsay Luangkhot. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

March 19, 2013

Laos stonewalls on disappearances


Laos stonewalls on disappearances

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A US-based human rights coalition has strongly condemned Laos for obstructing attempts to find three Hmong-Americans missing since early January.

The case of the three Hmong-Americans missing in southern Laos has been linked to the equally mysterious disappearance of civic activist Sombath Somphone, whose case also has been stonewalled by the entire Lao government and security apparatus.

“Brutal and corrupt elements of the Lao security services, including the secret police, military and communist party apparatus, appear to be seeking to cover-up what has happened to these three Americans,” said the statement, issued on Tuesday and posted on the CCPA website.

The US State Department said it had sent three embassy officials to Savannakhet to investigate the disappearances, but they were assaulted by Lao security forces.

“Local Lao officials refused to provide any information or assistance in determining the welfare and whereabouts of the missing men, and physically prevented the Embassy officials from entering an incident site which may be related to the case,” a US Embassy spokesman in Vientiane said.

The human rights group Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA) on Tuesday charged that Laos was obstructing attempts to learn the fates of the three missing men.

The ethnic men were last seen in Savannakhet province in southern Laos.

Souli Kongmalavong, Bounma Phannhotha and Bounthie Insixiengmai, all from Minnesota state, “appear to have gone missing under mysterious circumstance involving the Lao secret police and military,” Tuesday’s statement said.

The activists linked the disappearance of the three US citizens to the case of civic activist Sombath Somphone.

Mr Sombath, a Lao citizen, disappeared in Vientiane on Dec 15. The government has stonewalled all information about his disappearance.

The CPPA’s statement came with support from United Lao for Democracy and Human Rights (ULDHR), the Lao Human Rights Council (LHRC), the United League for Democracy in Laos, Inc. (ULDL), the Laos Institute for Democracy (LIFD), and a coalition of non-governmental organisations.

The Vientiane embassy’s statement on Sunday said the US government had received information the three Americans died in a traffic accident.

But when consular officials tried to get information on the scene, Lao security stopped them.

“We will continue to vigorously press the Lao government for information and assistance with this case,” it said.


ThailandPost : 2,254

Discussion 1 : 19 Mar 2013 at 11.081

A Lao refugee colleague told me that bad things can happen to those who go back. She did pay a visit, until her uncle advised her to leave for her safety. Those who fled are still referred to as “traitors” by the government, even though she was only a child at the time.

2 people liked / 0 people disliked this comment
March 19, 2013

Laos stonewalls on disappearances

July 12, 2012

“Here in Laos,” she said, “the past is always with us.”

Clinton, in historic visit to Laos, touches on toll of Vietnam War

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Click on picture

By , Published: July 11

VIENTIANE, Laos — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday became the first high-ranking U.S. official to visit Laos since the Vietnam War era, when the United States dropped some 260 million cluster bombs across the countryside in a nine-year campaign to crush North Vietnamese supply lines and bases. Clinton met with Laotian Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong and other officials for talks that centered mostly on addressing the lingering effects of that war — including a sense of mutual estrangement — and then toured a small museum devoted to its human toll.

In the sweltering afternoon, Clinton walked through an exhibit of dangling cluster bombs and crude wooden artificial legs made by villagers whose limbs had been blown off by unexploded ordnance, the legacy of a war that Clinton had protested as a college student in the 1960s.

Then she met Phongsavath Souliyalat, who had been blinded by and lost both hands to a cluster bomb. He told her he hoped governments would ban the weapon.

“We have to do more,” Clinton responded. “That’s one of the reasons I wanted to come here today, so that we can tell more people about the work that we should be doing together.”

The stop in Vientiane, Laos’s capital, was a brief but symbolically significant part of a longer trip that has also taken Clinton to Mongolia, Vietnam and, later Wednesday, to the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, where she was expected to attend Thursday’s regional meeting of the ASEAN group of 10 Southeast Asian nations.

The trip is intended to underline the Obama administration’s much-promoted strategic pivot toward Asia, and more particularly to convince ASEAN nations that U.S. interests in the region are not just security-based, but economic as well. Clinton is unveiling a range of economic initiatives and private-sector business deals during the trip.

At the same time, the United States is trying to encourage ASEAN nations to assert themselves in a simmering territorial dispute with China over the South China Sea, which analysts view as a test case for how a rising China will deal with the world — through threats and coercion or according to international legal norms.

China claims most of the South China Sea, including portions also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, and the resolution of those disputes will determine not only fishing rights but the rights to potentially large reserves of oil and natural gas.

The United States has been pushing the ASEAN nations to unify around a legally binding code of conduct based on international maritime law as a means of managing the disputes and as a way of cultivating ASEAN as a partner in the larger mission of engaging China.

China essentially wants the United States to stay out of it, and it is unclear which way ASEAN nations will bend.Even if they do come up with a tough code of conduct, analysts say the Chinese are unlikely to sign on to it.

Finessing such complexities of the so-called Asia pivot has been Clinton’s job, and she has carried it out partly by showing up: She has attended every ASEAN regional conference, and with her trip to Laos on Wednesday, she has visited all of the 10 ASEAN nations except Brunei, many of them multiple times.

As her term as secretary of state winds down, analysts say, many Asian leaders wonder whether U.S. engagement will last.

“She’s carrying a lot of the water herself,” said Ernest Z. Bower, a senior adviser and director of the Southeast Asia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “But when Asia looks at the U.S., they wonder if she has the support of the White House, of the political system, and that is a big question mark.”

After Clinton met here with Thongsing, her motorcade sped along bumpy, palm-tree lined roads, past people on sidewalks who stopped to stare. Later, she addressed U.S. and Laotian employees of the U.S. Embassy.

“Here in Laos,” she said, “the past is always with us.”


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