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Laos admits holding Thais

Laos admitted yesterday that it had detained seven Thai Rangers and a village head, saying they had illegally entered its territory.

Published on July 14, 2007

The Lao Foreign Ministry told AFP that the eight Thai nationals had been arrested three days previously in Xayabouly province and that the ministry was in talks with Bangkok to free them "very soon".

"On July 10, local authorities in Xayabouly province arrested seven Thai soldiers and one civilian, who made an incursion into our territory," said spokesman Yong Chanthalangsy, who added that more time was needed to question the men.

Lao authorities in Xayabouly province reportedly denied any knowledge of the men's whereabouts when approached by officials from Thailand's adjacent Nan province.

Nan's governor yesterday denied that the eight had entered Laos, saying it was a mountainous area where the border was not clearly demarcated.

"These eight people did not intrude into Laos territory; I think it was a misunderstanding," said Sompong Anuyuthapong.

Sompong told AFP that Lao authorities had said Thailand would have to collect the eight men on Monday. Defence Minister Boonrawd Somtas earlier said Laos was expected to free the men that day.

"Now everything is settled. Laos has explained the incident and things are now understood," Sompong said yesterday.

The Army said earlier that the group led by Captain Somsak Phummarin, commander of Company 3203, had been captured near Phu Sam Sao in Xianghon district, one kilometre inside Laos.

They left Thailand at 9am on Tuesday for Xayabouly to seek cooperation on anti-narcotics activities along the border area, the military said, adding that they were familiar with their Lao counterparts as they regularly visit the province.

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