Springtime, just before the new century began. As Laos is now the new Cambodia, Vietnam was then the new Thailand, and my girlfriend and I had arrived – with our backpacks – to see what all the fuss was about. The capital Hanoi had dazzled, and we were due to take the train 420 miles down the coast to Hué. We were late, though. We were always late.

Tourist murder charges

Police charged two Laotian teenagers with murder in connection with the shooting of two elderly German tourists on a sightseeing trip to a California beauty spot, Reuter reports from Riverside, California. The Riverside County Sheriff said the pair were associated with an Asian street gang. A third suspect is being sought.

Child slaves freed

(First Edition)

Travel Departures: Mekong bridge

THE first bridge to span the lower reaches of the Mekong River, linking Nong Khai in north-east Thailand with Laos's capital Vientiane has opened. Joshua Eliot, editor of the Thailand, Indochina and Burma Handbook, recently returned from the region, says the bridge has been a long time in coming. 'It was first mooted in the Fifties, but war in Indo-China and hostility between Laos and Thailand scuppered plans until the late Eighties.'

Bridge of peace

Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Laos's President, Nouhak Phoumsavan, opened the first international bridge over the Mekong, Reuter reports from Nong Thai. It is hoped the bridge will assist regional peace and prosperity.

The Week Ahead: Keating off to build bridges in Indo-China

AUSTRALIA'S Prime Minister, Paul Keating, tours Indo-China this week. He arrives in Laos tomorrow and Bangkok on Wednesday, and on Friday he attends the opening of the Friendship Bridge, which was built with Australian aid money to link Thailand and Laos across the Mekong river.

Obituary: Phoumi Vongvichit

Phoumi Vongvichit, revolutionary and politician: both Vientiane, Laos 6 April 1909; President of Laos 1985-91; died 7 January 1994.

Kicking out: Thai boxing is the most dangerous of all martial arts. And now women can play too. Dolly Dhingra follows in the warrior tradition

Sean Toomey says that it was an episode of Whicker's World which inspired him to take up the sport seven years ago. 'They were in Thailand and a nine-stone Thai guy challenged to fight anyone who dared. A sixteen-stone westerner volunteered and was out cold in seconds. I thought that's my kind of sport.' Sean is 5ft 8in, weighs nine-and-a-half stone and, although his fighting career is over, remains as agile as a puppet and stings like a mosquito.

Obituary: Sir Anthony Lincoln

Anthony Handley Lincoln, diplomat: born 2 January 1911; Deputy Secretary- General, Council of Europe, Strasbourg 1952-55; Counsellor, British Embassy, Copenhagen 1955-58; CVO 1957; CMG 1958, KCMG 1965; Ambassador to Laos 1958-60; Minister to Bulgaria 1960-63; Ambassador to Venezuela 1964-69; married 1948 Lisette Summers; died Bury St Edmunds 15 November 1993.

Travel Departures: Ho Chi Minh trail

IN ITS new programme of individual tours to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, Regent Holidays (0272 211711) is offering 14-day tours of Vietnam from pounds 650 to pounds 1,250 per person (depending on party size). A 14-day tour of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos costs from pounds 1,324. Prices exclude cost of travel from the UK to Vietnam: return fares are available from pounds 660.

Why so hard to swallow?: It's seven tons of rice. Here it is, at the Tate. It's up for the Turner Prize. Don't you just love it? Or wot? Gordon Burn investigates

Two words, 'Wot for?', splashed in fresh blue paint on the invitingly white side of House, Rachel Whiteread's hard-won cast of the living quarters of a Victorian terrace house in Grove Road, London E3. The raggedness of the letters and the gouts of hard gloss spreading out from them suggest the urgency and vehemence with which they have been applied. A woman with a wallpaper scraper has been given the thankless task of removing the daubings of the day before, which you can nevertheless still make out ('Council houses for all - black and white').

Laotian smiles, spreading like ripples on water: In Laos the roads are bad, the food worse and the accommodation terrible. Julia Wilkinson found respite in the warmth of the people

AS SOON as I saw him, dressed in battle fatigues with a gun in his belt, I knew he was my kind of man. When you want to go places in a land like Laos, you need a guy with guts.

UN troops spot their national differences: Julian Nundy in Sarajevo finds that the new world order has not succeeded in overcoming some ancient prejudices

WITH MILITARY men from a dozen nations sinking cold beers, it seemed a good time to review the new world order. Where better to start than with officers of one of the world's most recently created fighting forces - the Ukrainian army? The British, they concurred, were the worst drunks.

PoW rescue attempt

Washington (AP) - The Reagan administration sent a search mission into South-east Asia in 1981 after a satellite photo indicated there may be American PoWs in a prison compound, a former White House national security adviser said. The mission was inconclusive, however, because the prison was empty by the time the search party arrived. The CIA used a group of Laotian and American mercenaries for the search.

Treaty ends era of Asian enmity

MANILA (AFP) - Vietnam and Laos yesterday signed the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) Treaty of Amity and Co-operation, signalling an end to more than a decade of hostility between Indochina and its non-Communist neighbours.
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