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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Ceremony to mark 40th anniversary of cave tragedy

Laos will hold a ceremony to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Tham Piew cave tragedy in Xieng Khuang province on November 24, an official in the province said yesterday.

The provincial admini-stration office's Deputy Head of Office, Mr Bounhome Thedthany, said Party and State leaders, officials and people from around the country would travel to the province for the occasion

The cave has been developed as a tourist site.

“This year a special mourning ceremony will be held to remember the people who died in the cave during the American offensive in Laos ,” he said.

“Thousands of people are expected to come to pay their respects to the 374 people killed when a US fighter aircraft attacked the cave with missiles 40 years ago.”

American attacks began in Xieng Khuang province in 1964 during the Indochina War. It was in the late afternoon of November 24, 1968, that Tham Piew cave was hit. Children and elderly people were sheltering in the cave while other villagers were working in the fields.

The US aircraft launched four missiles at the cave. The first and the second missed the target, while the third and the fourth entered the cave killing all 374 people inside.

All of those who died in the attack are buried in front of the cave, Mr Bounhome said.

Most people abandoned their houses when the Americans arrived in the area because the bombing switched from military to civilian targets, including homes, schools and hospitals. Some people made their home in the jungle, while others sought shelter in caves.

“Inside the cave fragments of Buddha images, cooking utensils, medical equipment and human remains were found,” Mr Bounhome said.

“The cave was also used as a makeshift hospital at the time.”

Traditional Lao Buddhist rit uals will be held on the morning of the ceremony, including a tak baat (alms giving) to the dead. The Central Lao Artists' Troupe and the Central Acrobatic Troupe will perform on the main esplanade outside the cave site the day before the anniversary.

The Ministry of Information and Culture is currently constructing a pavilion for the event at a cost of almost 200 million kip.

Tham Piew cave is located in Boumlong village, about 60km east of Phonsavanh town and is a popular tourist site. The Tham Piew museum contains items collected from the cave.

Laos is the most heavily bombed nation on earth. More than two million tonnes of ordnance was dropped on the country by American warplanes during the Indochina War.

By Khonesavanh Latsaphao
(Latest Update November 5, 2008)

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