Lao police have arrested a resident of a village in Luang Prabang province in the northern part of the country on suspicion of involvement in the disappearance of a South Korean woman, a relative of the accused man said.
On June 3, officers arrested Pheang Phatthakone, a 45-year-old a resident of Kilometer 8 village in the province’s Luang Prabang district, following a presumed tipoff that he was involved in the woman’s disappearance on May 22, said the relative who spoke to RFA’s Lao Service on condition of anonymity.
The woman who, is in her 30s, was traveling alone when she visited the Khouangxi waterfalls, a popular tourist attraction 29 kilometers (18 miles) south of the town of Luang Prabang. Pheang reportedly saw her there while he was collecting banana flowers, his relative said.
The hotel where the woman was staying reported her disappearance to the police after she did not show up, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported on May 29.
South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not release the woman’s name, the report said, and the Lao media have not reported Pheang’s arrest.
Pheang’s relative said authorities do not have any concrete evidence that Pheang was involved in the woman’s disappearance.
“After the disappearance, news spread that a man told villagers that he saw the woman who disappeared near the Khouangxi waterfalls,” he said. “Unfortunately, one of villagers informed police about what he said.”
The following day, the police took Pheang to the spot where he said he saw the woman and twice called him in for questioning, Pheang’s relative said.
Then on June 3, police arrested Pheang and have not allowed him to see his family, he said.
“I am very concerned that he will be physically assaulted and forced to confess to the crime,” he said, adding that police did not inform the family of the arrest and did not produce an arrest warrant for Pheang.
“The police did not tell us why he was arrested, and they have not provided any evidence proving that he has killed this woman,” he said. “Our family is in shock about what has happened.”
Pheang picks banana flowers—the blossoms from a banana tree—for a living to support his three children, his relative said.
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Reported and translated by Ounkeo Souksavanh for RFA’s Lao Service. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.
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