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Laos Denies Reports of Hmong Attacks on Army Camps - 2003-08-13


The Laos government is denying reports that ethnic Hmong rebels have recently attacked two army camps. But diplomats in Laos say a series of bomb blasts and bus attacks in the tiny landlocked nation are linked to anti-government activity.

News reports say the Lao government has sent extra troops to the country's northwest, where the military camps allegedly were attacked last week.

Although the Foreign Ministry says no such attacks took place, it blamed a bomb last week in a crowded bus station in the capital Vientiane on "business disputes."

The government refuses to acknowledge anti-government activity by Hmong rebels. The government calls them bandits.

The rebels have been fighting in remote regions of Laos since the Communist Party took power in 1975. In the 1960s and '70s, the Hmong were backed by the United States as they fought the Communists.

A few years ago, 14 bombings in the capital left four people dead and injured more than 40. No one claimed responsibility for the attacks.

This year, several buses and vehicles have been attacked along the country's main highway. More than two dozen people have died in the attacks, including two European tourists.

No one has claimed responsibility for the recent attacks, but Western diplomats in Laos privately say they suspect the Hmong.

Lao opposition groups in the United States claimed last month that the Hmong rebels had begun a campaign to topple the government. Vietnam military sources reported that small skirmishes had taken place.

Some diplomats say the Hmong rebels, who call themselves the Laos Citizen's Movement for Democracy, are a creation of the anti-communist groups in the United States.

Journalists who have traveled to Hmong areas say the rebels are little more than a ragtag band of undernourished, poorly equipped people who wish to emigrate to the United States.

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