Vietnam says one person is dead and six others have been arrested following clashes between Vietnamese border guards and suspected rebels on the Vietnam-Laos border. Vietnam says the gunbattle occurred in central Nghe An province, and involved suspected rebels who entered Vietnam from Laos to seek food.
A border guard official says the intruders are ethnic Hmong rebels who live in the Lao jungle and frequently cross into Vietnam for looking for food, clothes and medicine.
Thai officials say they have rescued 18 Lao girls from slave labor at a garment factory in Bangkok. Thailand says the Lao girls, who were as young as 11 years old, were forced to work long hours producing jeans for no money. The girls say they were lured from Laos with promises of paying work. The alleged owner of the factory has reportedly been arrested on charges of human trafficking.
The International Labor Organization warned last year that hundreds of Lao children were feared to have fallen victim to human traffickers. Earlier this year, the U.S. State Department accused Laos of failing to police its borders from human traffickers.
In its annual report on religious freedom around the world, the U.S. State Department says China, North Korea, Burma and Vietnam are among eight of the worst offenders of religious freedom. Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Sudan also made the list.
Secretary of State Colin Powell says the eight countries engage in a range of practices which restrict the free exercise of religion, including harassment, detention, torture and beatings.
In addition, the United States said China, Laos, Burma, North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba are totalitarian regimes that regard religious groups as enemies of the state.
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