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Archive for Laos

Newsline: Philippine Embassy in Laos warns of Filipino card sharks preying on tourists

Filipino professionals are not the ones seeking work in Laos. A group of alleged Filipino card sharks called the “Blackjack” group is also busy preying on tourists and has alarmed officials of the Philippine Embassy here. The “Blackjack” group started in Vietnam as early as 2009, and then later branched out to Cambodia, Thailand and Laos. William (not his real name) was a retired police officer from Australia. He came to Laos for a short visit. While strolling at the Vientiane Night Market along the Mekong River, he was approached by a middle-aged woman. She introduced herself as a Filipina. Later that night, she invited William to her home, which the latter gladly accepted. Later William remembered that an ‘uncle’ told him that a visitor – a businessman actually wants to play blackjack with him. At first he was winning, but after a few rounds, he was losing. Wanting to get his money back, the woman convinced him to withdraw money from a nearby ATM machine. Afterwards, everything was vague. When he regained consciousness, William went to the police. He was able to meet with Philippine Embassy officials. William still recalled the landmarks where he was brought, but he could not pinpoint the exact location of the house. Investigators faced a blank wall. No names. No address. William could also be charged for breaking the law because gambling is technically illegal in Laos except in designated Golden Triangle Special Economic Zones. Third Secretary and Vice Consul Iris Vanessa Caranzo said members of the “blackjack” group usually targets backpackers, and those who are just on short visits to Laos or Cambodia. They usually approach a lone tourist and befriend them. They also target tourists who could hardly speak English like Japanese and Koreans. “They know that these people cannot pursue a case because it takes time,” Carranzo said. There are already reported cases in Cambodia and Thailand. A member of the syndicate was apprehended in Phuket. Nine Filipinos and two locals were arrested in Vietnam in 2010 but were later released because the case did not prosper in court.


Newsline: Turkey inaugurates embassy in Laos

Turkey inaugurated its embassy in the capital of Lao People’s Democratic Republic. “Through this embassy, this mission, we serve for the interest of both countries Laos and Turkey,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said at the opening ceremony in the Southeast Asian country. Cavusoglu, who is currently in a two-day visit to capital Vientiane, is the first foreign minister who pays a visit to Laos from Turkey. Turkey has now embassies in all Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries with the inauguration of Laos embassy, the minister added. “For us this region, ASEAN region and Asia are so important. With this embassy, now we have reached 240 missions, including the consulate missions, in all over the world,” Cavusoglu said. He added Turkey wants to increase the number to 269 in two years.


Newsline: Chinese issues safety warning after citizen shot dead in Laos

Chinese Embassy in Laos on Sunday issued a safety warning after a Chinese citizen was shot dead in Lao’s central Xaysomboun province. According to the embassy, a Chinese citizen was shot dead by unidentified persons on Friday in Xaysomboun province, some 130 km northeast of Lao capital Vientiane. The Lao side is currently investigating the incident, the embassy said. In its safety warning, the embassy reminds Chinese citizens and institutions in Laos to further improve safety awareness and strengthen security precautions. In case of emergency, Chinese citizens should immediately report to Lao police, and contact the Chinese embassy and consulate in Laos, it said. Previously on March 1, 2016, a Chinese company in the northern Luang Prabang province was attacked by an unidentified armed group, leaving one Chinese citizen dead and three others injured. On Jan. 24, 2016, an attack by an unidentified group in Xaysomboun province killed two Chinese people and injured one. The safety warning by Chinese Embassy in Laos is effective for six months until Dec. 18, 2017.


Newsline: South Korean Embassy Officials in Laos Accused of Being Asleep at Their Post

Nine young North Korean defectors on their way to freedom in South Korea were deported from Laos on Tuesday under guard of North Korean agents with diplomatic passports. As late as Wednesday, a full day after they had been taken back to the North, the South Korean Foreign Ministry mumbled something about trying to locate them and maybe prevent them from being sent back to the repressive country, where they face internment or execution. Now the ministry claims it did everything possible to help them. A South Korean missionary who was detained in Laos while escorting the young refugees said he informed the South Korean embassy in Vientiane on May 20 that two men with North Korean accents had interrogated them in detention. He says embassy officials told him not to worry and said Lao authorities were just trying to determine whether the defectors were really trying to escape from the North. Instead of trying to help, it seems the South Korean diplomats ended up shooing the defectors along to their doom. The young refugees, who are between 15 and 23, spent 18 days in Laos without meeting a single South Korean embassy official. Diplomats are responsible for defending South Korea’s national interests just as soldiers protect its physical borders. The way they bungled the Lao incident brings to mind a soldier snoozing at his frontline post.


Newsline: Laos embassy denies bringing sport cars into Philippines

The Embassy of Laos is not in anyway involved in the smuggling of three high end sport cars, a Ferrari Spider and two Lamborghini Aventadors. According to sources at the Bureau of Customs, this is not the first time a foreign embassy has been victimized by syndicates who bring in contraband. In this case, the embassy was caught by surprise and allowed the authorities to proceed with their investigation without issuing an statement when the news broke out two months ago. Juan Secon, a former member of the Customs Consultative Committee, said embassies should guard against the operations of unscrupulous individuals or groups even as the bureau intensifies its campaign to thwart the illegal entry of cars and other dutiable goods.


Newsline: Philippine Customs asks Laos Embassy to justify importation of Ferrari and Lamborghinis

The Bureau of Customs (BOC) has asked the embassy of Laos to justify its duty-free importation of three high-end sports cars—a Ferrari Spider and two Lamborghini Aventadors. Customs Commissioner Rufino Biazon told the Inquirer the BOC at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) had declared the three exotic cars as “abandoned” since their consignees had not processed their papers since the vehicles arrived in November last year, or more than the 30-day limit to claim them. “The official and full report is being prepared by district collector (Carlos) So but offhand, unofficially, it’s confirmed that the Lao embassy is acknowledging the shipments,” said Biazon in an interview. An official of the Lao Embassy said it had submitted its reply to BOC and declined to discuss the matter. A source in the BOC said the Spider and Aventadors were supposed to be delivered to different consignees at the same address: 34 Lapu-Lapu St., Magallanes Village, Makati City, care of the Embassy of Laos. Since they arrived on Nov. 28, nobody has come forward to claim the cars after BOC agents questioned why diplomats would buy fast cars as their service vehicles. Biazon said the BOC would auction off the Ferrari and Lamborghinis if the Lao embassy fails to justify the use of its duty-free perk to bring in the pricey vehicles.


Newsline: Pirate Bay Founder Wins Back Passport from Swedish Embassy in Thailand

Pirate Bay co-founder Fredrik Neij has won his appeal against the Embassy of Sweden in Bangkok after it revoked his passport earlier this year. The authorities could not give a proper reason for the revocation to the Appeals Court, meaning that Neij is now free to travel from Laos where he currently resides. February this year the main verdict against Fredrik Neij and his co-defendants in the Pirate Bay trial was made final. However, Neij has not given up completely. Together with former site spokesman Peter Sunde he filed appeals with the European Court of Human Rights in June. While Neij awaits the Court’s decision he is residing in Asia with his family, where he and his wife are expecting their third child. But a few months ago Neij suffered another setback when the Embassy of Sweden in Bangkok revoked his passport, a decision the Pirate Bay co-founder decided to appeal in August. The 34-year-old argued that the nature of his crime is not serious enough to warrant his passport being taken away and that by doing so the Swedish authorities will subject his family to unreasonable consequences. Among other things, Neij and his Thai wife want to be able to travel to Thailand for the birth for medical reasons. Neij will now await the decision of the European Court of Human Rights, in a country of his own choosing.


Newsline: US Embassy in Laos hosts country’s first-ever LGBT pride event

In what gay activists have praised as a positive move, the United States Embassy in Laos held the country’s first-ever lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Pride event in the country. According to the US Embassy’s website, “the US Embassy, Laos held its first-ever Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride event in Vientiane. “The event, called “Proud to be Us!”, was produced by a group of young Lao LGBT activists and featured music, dance, skits, and dramas exploring issues faced by LGBT people in Laos today, such as discrimination, gender roles, and sexual health,” the statement added. The embassy said that more than 100 people were present for the event, which was held on the sports field on the embassy’s premises.


Newsline: Laos allows Western diplomats into Hmong village

The Laotian government allowed UN agencies and top diplomats brief access to a village housing thousands of ethnic Hmong who were expelled from Thailand in December. In an attempt to quell international concerns about the group, officials led a tightly-controlled trip via helicopter to remote Phonkham village, a newly-built community in central Bolikhamsay province. Bangkok sparked a global outcry in December when it used troops to forcibly repatriate about 4,500 Hmong from camps in northern Thailand to its communist neighbour. The group included 158 people recognised as refugees by the United Nations. Hmong are a Southeast Asian ethnic group who fear persecution for fighting alongside US forces in the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 1970s. Thailand and Laos both said the Hmong were illegal economic immigrants. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) was never given access to the vast majority of the Hmong in Thai camps to assess if any were in fact refugees, despite concerns that a significant number would need international protection. But a UNHCR official was invited to take part in Friday’s short visit, along with representatives of the World Bank, the UN Development Programme, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The visitors included about 20 Western diplomats including the US ambassador to Laos, European Union delegates, and foreign reporters. They were welcomed to the village by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Phongsavath Boupha. But for most of the two-hour stay, the delegation was confined to an unfinished village hall, mainly to be briefed about planned infrastructure developments, with no time allocated for one-on-one discussions with the Hmong. Diplomats have said there were no reports of mistreatment.