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Cablegate: Laos: 2008 Country Reports On Terrorism

P 291007Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY VIENTIANE
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2345
INFO NCTC WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS VIENTIANE 000671


DEPT FOR S/CT:RHONDA SHORE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PTER ASEC LA
SUBJECT: LAOS: 2008 COUNTRY REPORTS ON TERRORISM

REF: STATE 120019

1. General Assessment

Since 2002, the Government of Laos has consistently denounced
international terrorism and expressed a willingness to
cooperate with the international community on
counterterrorism. While there are domestic opposition
elements that have in the past employed terrorist tactics,
such as ambushing civilian buses as recently as 2003 and
bombing civilian targets as recently as 2004, Lao officials
at many levels saw international terrorism as an issue of
only marginal relevance to Laos. They believed that Laos, as
a small and neutral country, would not be targeted or
exploited by international terrorists.

Laos does not have a separate counterterrorism law, but the
Lao judicial system was prepared to prosecute acts of
terrorism as serious crimes under the Lao criminal code, and
amendments to the criminal code sought to strengthen
counterterrorism sanctions. Still, a 2006 UN-sponsored
workshop on counterterrorism illustrated myriad shortcomings
and vagaries in the theoretical application of the Lao
criminal code to deal with terrorism-related crimes, and
successful prosecution under these laws is not assured.
These shortcomings remained unresolved in 2008

Laos' border security was weak; border officials could not
effectively control access to the country even at its most
sophisticated border checkpoints. Border crossing along the
Mekong River into the surrounding countries of Burma,
Thailand, and Cambodia could be accomplished easily and
without detection. Border delineation remained poor in more
remote sections of the country, especially along the land
borders with Vietnam and China; it is likely that unmonitored
border crossings by locals occurred on a daily basis. Since
9/11, Lao authorities have strengthened airport security, and
airport security forces have participated in U.S. supported
security seminars in an effort to raise their standards, but
security procedures at land immigration points remained lax
compared with most other countries in the region. In
addition, official Lao identity documents, including
passports and ID cards, were easy to obtain.

2. Terrorist Groups

Laos has a small residual domestic insurgency numbering less
than 1,000 persons, including women and children, split into
small groups based in very remote areas of north/central
Laos. These groups have in the past employed terrorist
tactics, but there were no confirmed violent activities by
insurgents in 2008. In general, the insurgent groups faced
continuous military suppression which limited their
activities.

These groups are derived from disparate factions of the Hmong
ethnic group, some of which claim affiliation with royalist
and U.S. interests dating back to the Indochina conflict.
Allegiances held by insurgent groups are attributed to, among
others, General Vang Pao, the exiled Hmong leader who was
arrested in the U.S. in June 2007 for conspiracy to violate
the Neutrality Act by participating in a group that allegedly
formulated a plot to overthrow the present Lao government.
Information derived from the indictment indicated that the
group had undertaken extensive planning and had actively
sought financial backing from overseas contributors to
support its efforts to undertake the coup. The arrests
appeared to quash much of the popular support for this
movement, yet small nomadic groups of insurgents continue to
be linked to this cause.

3. Foreign Government Cooperation

In accordance with its obligations under UNSCR 1373, the Bank
of Laos vetted government and commercial bank holdings for
possible terrorist assets, as identified by U.S.-provided
lists of terrorist organizations and individuals, and issued
freeze orders for assets of organizations and individuals
named on these lists. However, the Bank has yet to require
the freezing of assets of individuals and entities included
on the UN 1267 Sanctions Committee consolidated list.

Lao authorities issued orders limiting the amount of cash
that could be withdrawn from local banks or carried into or
out of the country and strengthened reporting requirements of
state and privately owned commercial banks. Banking
regulation remained extremely weak, however, and the banking
system was vulnerable to money laundering and other illegal
transactions. Cooperation between U.S. officials and the Bank
of Laos remained cordial and cooperative.

4. Embassy point of contact is DCM Peter Haymond. Mr.
Haymond's classified e-mail address is

HaymondP@state.sgov.gov.


Huso

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