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Fate of Laos Protesters Unknown

May 30, 2000

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) _ The fate of at least five people arrested during a rare anti-government protest in Laos remains unknown, with the communist government continuing to deny the protest ever occurred, Amnesty International says.

Secret police quickly snuffed out the protest after it began Oct. 26 in the Laotian capital, Vientiane. Witnesses said protesters were surrounded and bundled off by police.

Those arrested were likely being held in Samkhe prison in Vientiane, without regular access to their families, adequate medical care or legal assistance, according to a report to be released Wednesday by the London-based human rights group.

Government officials said those arrested would be brought to trial, but specified no date, a diplomat in Vientiane said on condition of anonymity.

Eight or nine of the people were believed detained, and might be charged with ``disturbing the peace″ rather than with a charge acknowledging their political motives, the diplomat said.

The impoverished, landlocked country in Southeast Asia has been ruled by largely unreformed communists since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. Political dissent is not tolerated.

In recent months, four bombs have exploded in the capital, the latest on Sunday in the crowded Morning Market. Up to 20 people were reported injured.

State-controlled Radio Vientiane urged residents to be vigilant against acts by ``bad elements,″ Bangkok-based newspaper The Nation reported Monday.

It was unclear if the explosions were connected with the revived insurgency by members of the Hmong minority, who fought on the anti-communist side in the war.

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On the Net:

Amnesty International: http://www.amnesty.org

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