Lao authorities admit crimes have been on the rise in the capital city of Vientiane and increasingly violent in nature.
Security officials reveal that, in the past three months alone, they arrested more than 320 members of various organized crime groups, adding that since then they have been able to make more and more arrests as a result of their extensive interrogations of suspected criminals who incriminate fellow gang members. Officials say during a recent 20-day period, they were able to arrest 192 people involved in more than 160 crimes.
However, the head of the Vientiane Public Security Department, Col. Bounthieng Chanthamounkhoune, acknowledges that it is impossible for his men to make quick arrests of the majority of gang members because the criminals are heavily armed and confront them with assault weapons, as in the case of a recent raid in the That Luang area which resulted in the loss of one of his men and three serious injuries caused by shrapnels from a bomb thrown at them by the criminals.
Beside robberies, burglaries and thefts, drug smuggling and trafficking are also on the rise. In the most recent case, Vientiane's Wattay Airport authorities seized four kilograms of opium hidden in a package of soaps and facial creams destined for the United States.
In a related development, the Lao People's High Court reports that, in the past year, it has received more than 6,690 indictments against people suspected in various crime cases, of which 43% are drug-related.
Public security officials blame the increase in the number of criminals and the rise in crimes on the current economic situation, unemployment, and lack of educational opportunity for the majority of Lao youth, making them vulnerable and easily lured into organized crimes.
Songrit Pongern reported in Lao. Dara Baccam summarized in English.