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Laotian PM blames ethnic rebels for blasts: report

DATELINE: TOKYO, June 7

Laotian Prime Minister Sisavath Keobunpanh reportedly said Wednesday that he believed ethnic Hmong rebels were responsible for a recent series of blasts in his country.

"It is believed to be a crime by the Hmong anti-government group," Jiji Press news agency quoted Sisavath as saying in an interview.  His remarks were translated from Laotian.

Sisavath confirmed that there had been bombings in the Laotian capital Vientiane since March.

He said Hmong rebels now returned home from exile had mounted the campaign "to disturb the government and people."

The Laotian authorities, who are habitually secretive, acknowledged the existence of a security threat for the first time after a May 29 blast which injured 15. They blamed the attacks on unidentified "terrorists."

Diplomats in Vientiane said Wednesday that one person has been arrested in connection with a blast on a bus in Vientiane Tuesday which injured two people. It was the fifth bomb attack in three months in the capital.

Sisavath was in Tokyo to attend a memorial service for former Japanese prime minister Keizo Obuchi, who died on May 14 after six weeks in a stroke-induced coma.