The North Vietnamese offensive in Northern Laos this week has drawn attention to the remote base of Long Chen.
GVs Aircraft & helicopters landing & taking off at Ban Son (4 shots)
GV & SV Troops embarking onto helicopter (5 shots)
SV Ground crew
GV Helicopter takes off
SV & GVs Refugees in camp (10 shots)
GV & SV Pig farm (2 shots)
GV Ban Son
TRANSCRIPT: REPORTER: "They fly ammunition and supplies to the defenders of the old base at Long Chen. Food and medical supplies are flown to the Meo villages tucked in the mountain valleys of this part of northern Laos.
"The fighting in this part of Laos is done by what is officially called an irregular army led by the Meo General Van Theo. American officials are reluctant to admit it, but a large part of that army now fighting at Long Chan is made up of men from neighbouring Thailand. These Thai Troops have just flown in. In keeping with the C.I.A.'s wish for secrecy, no-one would say where they came from. They may have come direct from Thailand, or they may have been transferred from another base in Laos. But there's no doubt where they were going. Minutes after boarding the helicopter, they would be helping defend Long Chen.
"Ban Son is also the headquarters for distributing aid to the Meo people left homeless by the war. About one-hundred-and-fifty-thousand people have been turned into refugees. This village is normally home for about two thousand people. Another thousand moved in recent months, part of the thirty-thousand who fled from the fighting at Long Chen."
"The United States spends three-hundred-and-fifty-million dollars a year on military assistance to Laos....most of it pay for Van Theo's army. Fifteen million dollars is set aside for aid for refugees. The Meo traditionally live in small groups of about a dozen families. The war has swept tradition aside, forcing the people together in far larger settlements.
"The Meo depend on American aid to survive. This village is lucky -- it was given forty pigs, and now has one hundred. Seed was donated so the Villagers could grow vegetables. Other village depend on airlifts from Ban Son for regular supplies of rice and canned meat to keep them going."
Initials SGM/2351 SGM/2326
EDITORS: This telerecording includes a commentary by NBC commentator Rex Ellis. A full transcript appears below and an alternative Visnews Commentary is provided overleaf.
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: The North Vietnamese offensive in Northern Laos this week has drawn attention to the remote base of Long Chen. A fierce battle was fought near the base on Friday (31 March) and it's reported that the North Vietnamese forces were driven back suffering fifty casualties and the loss of two tanks.
Long Chen is the chief training centre in Northern Laos for a pro-Govern guerrilla army which works in cooperation with Laotian Government forces. The Army is under the command of a local Meo leader, General Van Thou.
Vital to the security of Long Chen - and dozens of Meo villages in the area- is the nearby United States - supported base at Ban Son. From Ban Son troops can be flown to Long Chen in a matter of minutes - or to any other Mao centre threatened by North Vietnamese attack.
But as well as being a military base, Ban Son is also a major distribution ??? centre for relief supplies, and a haven for local people displace by the fighting.
SYNOPSIS: In Northern Laos - the United States supported camp at Ban Son. From here troops can be airlifted in a matter of minutes to the nearby base at Long Chen. Ban Son acts as a back-up for Long Chen which is a training centre for a pro-government guerrilla force which works in cooperation with the Laotian government troops. These troops were on their way to Long Chen - at the weekend the subject of a concerted North Vietnamese attack. Reports indicate the attackers were driven back. A large part of the fighting force in this area comes from neighbouring Thailand. These soldiers join a force that is under the command of the local tribal leader, General Van Theo.
Ban Son also offers a have for refugees. Normally about two thousand people live in this village - now, with the increase in fighting, the number has swelled by a further thousand. Altogether it is estimated there are about 150-thousand people in the area made homeless by the fighting. Ban Son acts as a central distribution point for relief supplies. The United States spends fifteen million dollars a year helping refugees in Laos. A lot of this money is channelled through the base at Ban Son. Traditional living has been swept aside by the war. Meo tribes have always lived in small groups - about a dozen families in each. Now the traditional living pattern has become impossible as hundreds gather together for safety.
The pigs are part of the United States aid to this area. But despite the humanitarian work carried out by the Ban Son base it remains primarily a military establishment, a back-up for forces now fighting the new North Vietnamese offensive.