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US says Laos blocking probe into missing men

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The United States on Monday accused Lao officials of obstructing its investigation into the fate of three Lao-Americans missing for more than two months in the Southeast Asian nation.

Three US embassy officials travelled to the southern province of Savannakhet on March 6 to look into reports that the men may have died in a car accident, said a US embassy spokesperson in Vientiane.

"Local Lao officials refused to provide any information or assistance in determining the welfare and whereabouts of the missing men, and physically prevented the embassy officials from entering an incident site which may be related to the case," he said in an emailed statement.

"We have made multiple requests to the Government of Laos to provide us with information and assistance that would help us determine the welfare and whereabouts of these individuals. We will continue to vigorously press the Lao government for information and assistance with this case."

Family members, relatives, and friends say they have not seen or heard from the three men since January 6, the spokesman said.

It was unclear why the men -- two US citizens and one US legal permanent resident -- were visiting Laos. There was no immediate comment from the Lao government.

Their case follows the disappearance in December of a prominent Lao activist, Sombath Somphone, who was last seen being taken away from a police post by two unidentified individuals.

The United States last month appealed to Laos for more information on its investigation into Sombath's disappearance, which has sent jitters through the activist network in the secretive one-party communist state.

The Lao authorities have suggested he might have been abducted over a personal dispute but said they had no information about his whereabouts.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130318/us-says-laos-blocking-probe-missing-men