LA STAMPA

At Thailand-Laos Border, A Shadow Economy Thrives

In northwestern Laos, Chinese businesses dominate the Ton Pheung district, a special economic zone that has become a hub for all kinds of trafficking.

TON PHEUNG — A silhouette of the casino's golden domes and gaudy crown appears in the distance, standing out like a sore thumb against the landscape of lush tropical hills in this northwestern corner of Laos. The Ton Pheung district is part of a special economic zone (SEZ) — deep in Southeast Asia's drug-producing Golden Triangle — and the enormous Kings Roman Casino is its beating heart.

Just across the Mekong river from Thailand, Ton Pheung is just a stone's throw from where the borders of Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand meet. To the northeast is the border with China, and Chinese citizens have come to dominate and the surrounding province of Bokeo.

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Laos, A Risky Cleaning Job In The World's Most Bombed Country

A brave group of women are taking on the enormous task of finding and destroying millions of unexploded bombs in Laos, the most heavily bombed country, per capita, in the world.

XIANGKHOUANG — The women from the bomb-clearing team use loud speakers to warn the locals when there is about to be an explosion.

These women are on the front line of a campaign to clear up to 80 million unexploded bombs in Laos. Their metal detectors make a buzzing sound each time they find something.

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In Laos, Dawn's First Light Meets Mekong Rhythms

LUANG PRABANG — As they say, the early bird gets the worm. Luang Prabang, the former royal capital of Laos and a UNESCO world heritage site since 1995, is one of those early morning cities — not necessarily calm, but where a walk at the crack of dawn is very satisfying. As early as 5 a.m., the first colorful tuk-tuks begin roaming the city, buzzing like lawn mowers. The market is being installed on the main street, giving the town a Katmandu-of-the-hippy-years feel.

This is the time of the day when the first tourists start gathering in the main street to attend Tak Bat, a ritual ceremony of the Bhikkhu, or Buddhist monks. With bare feet, saffron-robed and alms bowls in hand, they begin a long walk around their monastery to beg for the khao niao, the sticky rice that inhabitants donate daily. The ceremony can look a little like a Disneyland parade, as tourists are not always aware that these young monks are observing a religious rite.

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The Dark Side Of Laos, As An Activist Vanishes Without A Trace

Police are monitoring traffic from a small wooden gatehouse in eastern Vientiane, on the outskirts of the Laotian capital. It was here nearly one year ago, opposite the Indian embassy, that 62-year-old Sombath Somphone mysteriously disappeared. The rural development promoter and farmers' rights activist hasn't been heard from since.

On Dec. 15, 2012, Somphone was driving behind his wife’s car in his Jeep. He was stopped by a traffic officer for an identity check. The policeman spoke with him through the car door. Somphone then stepped out and walked towards the gatehouse. Soon after, a man got off his motorcycle and climbed into Somphone’s Jeep and drove off.

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Geopolitics
Bruno Philip

The Sleepy Kingdom Comes Alive: Laos Rushes To Modernize

VIENTIANE - The feeling of lethargy still lingers in the streets of old Vientiane. Things, however, are beginning to change: the time for indolence is over.

The capital of Laos, on the banks of the Mekong River, is brushing off its image as a sleepy, colonial market town by hosting the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) this week. Vientiane, a city of 500,000 residents, is now discovering the symptoms of modernization that are recurrent in the "emerging" economies of Asia: traffic jams, a property boom, the growth of the middle class and the nouveaux riches who have unashamedly risen to wealth.

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Future

Daddy Longlegs In Laos May Be Biggest Spider Species Ever

HAMBURGER ABENDBLATT, SENCKENBERG INSTITUT (Germany)

Worldcrunch

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