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Ancient Laos cave gives visitors raw look at wartime history

Publication Date : 12-01-2014


Xieng Khuang province has set a target of attracting more than 48,000 foreign visitors to the area this year, after a convoy of vehicles carrying government officials visited Tham Piew cave on Friday morning.

The government spent over 22 billion kip (US$2 million) developing the cave site for tourism, Sivilay Oudomsouk, the provincial Information, Culture and Tourism department's Deputy Director, told Vientiane Times.

A road linking the cave with Road No 6 has already been paved with asphalt. The car park has been updated to accommodate about 200 vehicles and a concrete walkway to the mouth of the cave has been paved, including a fence for safety.

 Thousands of visitors travel to Tham Piew cave each year.
“We're pleased that the large caravan of around 50 cars carrying over 270 people visited the cave yesterday morning,” Sivilay said.

Last year, Xieng Khuang generated revenue of around US$5 million from over 43,000 foreign visitors.

The Plains of Jars, Keng Mountain, Tham Piew cave and the two waterfalls of Kha and Ka are all popular with foreign visitors.

Laos will hold a ceremony to commemorate the Tham Piew cave tragedy in Xieng Khuang province every five years.

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 46 years ago.

Party and state leaders, officials and people from around the country will travel to the province for the occasion.

The ceremony is to mourn and remember the people who died in the cave during the war in Laos.

American attacks in Xieng Khuang province began 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 but the third and the fourth found their way into the cave and killed all 374 people inside.

All of those who died in the attack are buried in front of the cave.

Most people abandoned their houses when American forces attacked the area. Homes, schools and hospitals were all being hit.

Some people went to live in the jungle, while others sought shelter in caves.

Fragments of Buddha images, cooking utensils, medical equipment and human remains were found inside the cave.

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

Tham Piew cave is located in Boumlong village in Kham district, 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 were dropped on the country by American warplanes during the Indochina War.






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