Agence France Presse - 13 Septembre 1996
Laos - warning to travellers after French executive killed in Laos
- by Pascale Trouillaud - HANOI , SEPT 13
The death ot a top French executive in an ambush in northern Laos
has put the spotlight on the dangers of travelling in the country
that is just starting to open up to the rest of the world.
Laotians and foreigners were shaken by the killing Wednesday of
Claude Vincent, 56, a long-time French resident known throughout
The founder and director of SODETOUR, the largest tourism agency
in the country, was killed when his minibus carrying Laotian
employees was ambushed on the road from Vientiane to the northern
city of Luang Prabang, a major tourist site, French officials
Five of the seven people on board were killed by 20 assaillants
armed with rifles.A sixth was in critical condition and the
seventh was shielded from the gunfire by a seat.
The attack occured 30 kilometers (19 miles) north of Kasi, an aera
populated by the minority Hmong tribe, which has long opposed the
Marxist-Leninist laotian regime.
Banditry is also being considered as a motive for the attack as
the minibus was looted -- in the exact spot were last November two
french tourists were wounded.
According to sources, the minibus was to have tagged along with a
military convoy from Kasi, but for some reason the convoy left
Attacks on the road to Luang Prabang are common, though never
officially confirmed.Nevertheless, one western observer said with
the death of Vincent, "the government can no longer kepp quiet"
Sodetour organizes tours to hotels across Laos, a country that is
gradually opening its doors to foreign tourists and the minibus
was taking the team to Luang Prabang ahead of the boat festival.
"It was really unlucky, he well knew the risks and would warn
people to avoid the road to Luang Prabang" said one French
resident of Vientiane.
Vincent had made Laos his home since the 1970s and had married a
member of the Laos royal family.
"The news shocked everyone.He was one of the most well-known
foreigners in Laos" said another French national in Vientiane.
Vincent had extensive connections with Laotian leaders and access
that apparently extended to the highest levels of government.One
laotian source said he had had "a de-facto monopoly on transport
for a long time after the (1975) revolution when the country was
closed to the outside world"
"It's because of him that French investors were able to get a
foothold in Laos" said one French resident.
Vincent, the son of teachers, and was originally from Le Havre in
Many laotian public figures gathered Thursday at his coffin as it
lay covered with yellow flowers in the Nong Bone pagoda in
Vientiane.A Buddhist cremation was scheduled for Saturday.
by Pascale Trouillaud - AFP - HANOI, 13 SEPTEMBER 1996