Lao government, ethnic communities clash over development projects

New reports of Lao military operations against ethnic Hmong communities suggest the government is tightening its control over areas targeted for development and investment.

According to a Radio Free Asia report on April 1, Lao military forces have repeatedly attacked Hmong living around Phou Bia mountain in Xaysomboun province, north of Vientiane. Local sources and civil society advocates say the military campaign is an attempt to push the Hmong out to ensure that foreign investment projects and other government-backed initiatives can proceed unimpeded.

In March, one fighter with a group of unidentified gunmen was killed during fighting with Lao military forces in Xaysomboun. Following the attack, authorities in the province issued an order prohibiting anyone from entering the area from March 15-30 and the Lao military sent in reinforcements, blocking roads around Thathom district. On March 19, local officials declared three villages in Thathom to be “developed”, citing significant production of paddy rice and animal husbandry, according to the government-backed Vientiane Times.

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