Near Vang Vien - in the special zone / bad storie

Discussion in 'Laos Road Trip Reports' started by Peter1, Oct 16, 2006.

  1. Remarkable report of a tragic story.
    Does this mean the restrictions that I understood to have been relaxed will now be reintroduced?
  2. I'm very, very new here but I think I can add something to this. Let me start by saying that the situation isn't exactly a black and white case of good guys (oppressed Hmong) vs bad guys (nasty commies) which is what I think is implied in this report (these things are always several shades of grey).

    I worked full time in the Special Zone in Lao for about 2.5 years from early 2003 on. We were about 60km south of Long Chieng (the old CIA/Air America base). Understandably we kept a pretty close eye on the "security" situation and during my time there we learnt of between 10 - 20 incidents involving what the authorities referred to as “bandits." These included the shooting up of three civilian buses, random shootings of non - Hmong villagers working in the fields and the occasional shoot – out with the army

    Our access into the area was along route 13B ( I think it was 13B?) which was strictly off limits to all other foreigners. In 2004 the Government declared an amnesty and I think around 1000 people came out of the hills and gave themselves up. In 2005 a large section of the Special Zone was transferred back to civilian government control as the army felt that the problem was now under control. There was another spate of shootings around the time of the ASEAN (Nov 2004??) conference in Vientiane but things had been quiet since then. I’d heard about this latest incident. Talking to friends still working in the area has shed no light on the story. There have been no further reports of fighting since then though.

    Yes. Some horrible things were done to the Hmong in the 2 decades after the war as a result of them having backed the wrong side. However the “bandits” that have been active in the area since are also responsible for some pretty ugly things too. A lot of their attacks were aimed at civilians and appeared to be nothing more than very violent robbery e.g.: the two attacks on buses on the Vang Viang – Kasi Road that killed about 20 people. In both cases they looted the buses. In the first of these incidents two Swiss cyclists were killed. They had the dire luck to pedal onto the scene as it was happening. In the second the bus was full of students returning home for pi mai lao celebrations. To an outsider it all seemed like tragically pointless tit for tat violence resulting from a war that finished 30 years ago.

    The biggest problem for us when I was working there was always trying to find the truth in the stories told to us. The army of course used to just give us a big grin, a shrug of the shoulders and “bor mi ban haa” (no problems). However they still insisted that we have a full time detachment of soldiers in camp.

    Clouding the truth wasn’t the sole preserve of the government though. A group of die-hards in the Hmong population who re-located to America are still pretty bitter and try to discredit the Lao government at every opportunity. A lot of the stories of atrocities are fed to the media by this group. While the dust was still settling from the Twin Towers attacks these people were trying to have the Lao PDR declared a “terrorist state” through a sympathetic US senator.

    Did the massacre happen?? I don’t honestly know. I’d like to think that it didn’t but maybe I'm naïve. I don’t know if you’re allowed into what used to be the Special Zone yet without a permit. The government may still be a little bit touchy about letting hordes of falangs loose in there. It’s a shame really because the scenery is great, the roads are good and the place hasn’t seen a tourist in a very long, long time. The trip up to Long Chieng would rank as a classic in my opinion.
  3. Yesterday I tried to get up to Long Chieng and I was stopped by the army, from what I could tell, about 5km from the town itself. I can say that there are is a fair number of well equipted Milatary personel in the area. They tried to pull me over 5 times on the way up the Long Chieng trail, I played the stupid farang and waved to them and just kept going, this was until I hit a single landed bridge with a truck on it, at this point I had to stop and I was told in no uncertain terms, to go back the way I came.

    The actual phrase that was used was , 'bang, bang' while he was pointing to me and then pointing to the road ahead.

    Will do a trip report with a few photos in the next couple fo days if anybody is interested. Great ride and scenery up that way.
  4. Got some photo's somewhere of the trip we did up there in 2004 if anyone is interested. I have to confess that we didn't get there by motorcycle but by Hilux (may God forgive my unworthy soul!!) My boss was given a personal invite from the Governor of the Zone at that time which is how we actually got onto the airbase. The security situation was in a bit of a lull at that stage though.
  5. Hey Ratsy, are we interested, matey!! post'm an we'll read'm.
    You are forgiv'n for your Hilux trav'ln sins, only because you were in a Hilux,( Get in or get out of the way.).Scott
  6. Shit! Me and my big mouth!! Just read the instructions on how to post photo's!! This may take me a day or two. Anyway I'll give it a whirl and see what happens.
  7. hi bamboo..where did u find the info on posting fotos...had a bit of a sniff round..but cant seem to find it...thnx

  8. Yeah please do post asap.

    Silverhawk's instructions in the "New User" part of the forum
    is easy to follow and worked for me using, "SmugMug" as
    a site on which to post pix.
    Members up north particularly ask for the pix to be kept to
    a reaonable size - again follow Silverhawk's advice.

    From Woody's attempt [good on yer mate], it sounds as though the PDR Army are back on offensive ops again, as reported in the original link. Tragic.

    You [Bamboorat] appear to be the first person who has actually
    made it to the airfield so your pix and report will be really interesting.

    A rider's report last year got to a positon, a few clicks away, from where you could see in his pix the unique karsk mountain formations of "Titty" karsk & the "Vertical Speed Break".

    Looking forward to reading more.

  9. OK. lets see if this works.


    This is what's left of the Control Tower. Just posted this one to see if I got it right. If it works I'll put more up later.
  10. Bugger!!

    here we go again....


  11. Third time lucky??? Maybe??

  12. WOOHOO!!!! The last one worked!

    Tried the first 3 through Yahoo but I dunno what happened there. Downloaded the smugmug trial version and it worked first time. These are only there for 14 days. I promise I'll stop being a tight-arse and will pay the cash and download the real thing tomorrow.

    I thought the individual photos were supposed to download onto this page rather than it linking to the gallery on smugmug?? If so any pointers as to what I might have done wrong would be appreciated. Would like to be able to organise the photos here and add text.
  13. Humble apologies to anyone who clicked on that last one. It's been a long day and I shouldn't have tried this while I'm dazed and confused (99% of the time!!!). I've re-read Silverhawk's instructions and the "How To's" on smugmug and I think I've got it sorted now. I'll try again tomorrow - I'm liable to re-format my C drive if I keep going!
  14. Ratsy, a lot of the guys use Smugmug but a few of us skinflints use Photobucket coz it's a freebie ( also, once you have uploaded your pics (in the appropriate size of course!) you get a copy/paste URL specially for message boards which makes it all a piece of pi55!!!

    Cheers & good luck as it would be great to see the pics.


    "No matter how hard you try, you CAN'T polish a turd!"
  15. Pikey,

    thanks for the tip on Photobucket. You're right. That cut and paste URL makes life a whole lot easier.

    Obviously the one I posted above is the skeleton of the control tower.


    The vertical speed brake at the northern end of the runway


    Vang Pao's House. This place was still in pretty good shape but was locked.


    The bunker behind the American Compound


    The souvenier shop. Lots of this stuff being collected by the locals for sale as scrap. The hills around are carpeted with live and dead UXO. Not the place to engage in hill tribe trekking.

    I've got more but will have to re-size and upload.
  16. thebamboorat-

    Great photos, many have been curious about this area.

    I am happy you have the photo posting figured out. May I suggest that posters click on "Preview Post" before submiting. That way if your links don't work, you can correct it or cancel so you do not get multiple failed posts. Also if after posting it doesn't work, click on the "edit post" icon and you can make your changes.

    Look forward to more photos Bamboorat.

    Dave Early

    Ever notice that "What the Heck!" is usually the right answer?
  17. good pics bamboo..u have done well..iam still trying to post some pics.. will read more..also read the page from silverhawk..whant to put some pics of NZ.b4 i come to thailand.cheers

  18. Cheers for going to the effort to get those photos up Bamboorat. After doing a little travel in Laos and reading books like "Backfire", and "Air America" it is really interesting to see how things are looking at Long Tieng nowdays. A couple of us are heading to Laos in Feb for some riding, if anyone has any information on what the story is with access to Long Tieng at the moment we would be very interested. Its hard to get a feel for what would be the best way to go about it when you live in NZ! Last year we just tried to ride there but were turned back (with the same finger pointing "bang bang" that Woody described). If you have more photos to post Bamboorat go for it!

    For anyone who is interested here are a couple of pics from LS20a's heyday:



  19. Yeah, sorry about that Silverhawk. In typical style I skimmed the instructions, said "Easy!!" and tried to blunder my way through.

    Anyway, here's another batch.


    This one is inside the bunker in the American Compound.


    The airfield office. Definitely built to to be bomb proof. The concrete slab forming the roof looked to be about 50cm thick!


    View down the airstrip


    View back the other way


    The view from the top of the American Compound. Unfortunately not a lot left there. A few of the concrete and stone buildings remain, but only a couple are still in use.


    Have a couple more shots left that I will post later.
  20. Tremendous pics - do please keep them coming.

    A number of mates & I have wanted to get there for some years now
    - so v envious of yr trip.

    Larry Baraniuk posted his GT Rider report & pix at the following threads: ... hichpage=2 ... hichpage=2

    For those interested in the wartime history from a US perspective here's a great site

    and here is the Ravens own site

    For a fuller written report of Roger Arnold's extraordinary
    trip go to ... rnold.html


  21. Great Pics and info. I know many guys on this board who have tried and failed, or would do almost "whatever" it takes to get in there and see in person. Put me on that list also.

    Dave Early

    Ever notice that "What the Heck!" is usually the right answer?
  22. Mat
    Really interesting contemporary pics of the base when operational.
    Where did you source them from as they have not appeared in anything
    I have seen published?

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