If you are studying abroad in Laos or are traveling in the area, be careful and take caution. A number of shootings have been reported in Laos’ most popular tourist areas. The US Department of State describes this situation as “unpredictable” and “lacking in information.” The Lao government has not shared what the possible motives for these shootings are or any details with the public.

On March 7, 2016, the US Department of State issued a travel alert urging Americans to stay clear of Road 13 which connects Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng. One person has been killed and nine have been injured. This is a serious situation.

A few days earlier, on March 1, a similar incident occurred on Road 13. A bus carrying numerous workers and a pickup truck were targeted, killing one man and hurting three others. A recent article published by Asia Times speculates that the construction of new buildings and other projects are upsetting the locals. In this particular situation, the Lao government is employing Chinese nationals to work on a major project in one of Laos’ rural towns and many villagers are not happy. Bandits have taken matters into their own hands, bombing and shooting innocents to send a message to the government.

In February, the US government had warned travelers about the unrest in Xaisomboun province, located in the south eastern part of Laos. Roadside bombs and active shooters had killed at least three people. Prior to these attacks, a string of shootings occurred in the area. All travel to this province has been restricted.

What can you do to protect yourself? According to GetReadyGEAR, expect the unexpected and familiarize yourself with these levels of civil unrest:

  • Level 1: individuals turning on eachother
  • Level 2: orchestrated by rioters and protestors and usually happens in a targeted area
  • Level 3: regional emergency situation
  • Level 4: national or international emergency situation

If any of these situations occur, be ready for them. Pay attention! It is a matter of life or death. Keep in mind that sometimes, you cannot control the situation and prevent things from happening.

Keep tabs on the news and avoid dangerous routes. In this case, if you are currently studying in Laos or are vacationing there, stay away from Road 13 and Xaisomboun province.

GetReadyGear also offers advice during periods of civil unrest:

    • Listen to your TV or battery powered radio if the electricity is out, to understand the current boundaries of the unrest. Given the location of the unrest start planning how you can maintain your normal activities while avoiding the area.
    • Verify your 72 hour emergency supplies are accessible and “fresh.”
    • Coordinate with neighbors (assuming the unrest is not in your neighborhood) in regards to ride sharing and transporting children to school. Drive only if it is absolutely necessary and if you must drive, consider the following:
      • Travel in the daytime, don’t travel alone and keep others informed of your schedule and route.
      • Keep a car survival kit in your car with essential survival supplies.
      • Stay on main roads, avoid back roads and shortcuts.
      • Depending upon the level and location of the unrest, plan on how to ration fuel, food and water supplies.
      • Consider how you will defend your emergency supplies and food should local looting become an issue. And since civil unrest is not solely an urban phenomenon, rural citizens should also plan accordingly especially related to protecting farm products and livestock.

For the instant security information and the latest travel information, enroll your trip with STEP – The U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.  They can’t help you if they don’t know where you are.  
If you are currently studying in Laos, stay in contact with the US Embassy for the latest information. Check your travel insurance to determine if you have evacuation insurance for civil unrest in case the situation worsens.