Tham Piew

Piew Cave - Tham Piew Cave - Tham Piu - Missile Cave


Useful Information

Location: Boumlong village, Kham district, 60 km east of Phonsavanh town.
(19.6747, 103.5686)
Open: All year daily 7-16.
[2021]
Fee: free.
[2021]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: bring torch
Dimension:  
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography:  
Address: Tham Piew, Tel: +856-, Fax: +856-,
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

24-NOV-1968 374 people taking refuge in Tham Piew are killed by a rocket.
2014 road linking the cave with Road No 6 paved, car park for 200 vehicles, concrete walkway to the mouth of the cave and railings installed.

Description

There never was a war between Laos and the United States, but nevertheless this cave is a monument to the unnecessary deth of 374 villagers in a non-existent war. The Vietnam War or Kháng chiến chống Mỹ (Resistance War Against America) was officially fought between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. But it was a war between two political systems. The communists of North Vietnam were supported by the Soviet Union, China, and other communist allies, and South Vitenam was supported by the United States, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Thailand, and other anti-communist allies. It was one of numerous Proxy Wars which were common during the Cold War. In reality it was not restricted to Vietnam but also included Laos and Cambodia. All three countries had a civil war between communist and capitalist groups, but while the United States supported Vietnam and Cambodia, the officially never supported Laos. We all know how it ended: all three countries became communist in 1975.

The small village near Tham Piew was unfortunately located in the northern part of Laos which became a war zone. Fortunately the had a huge cavern, and every time when the fights came near the town or when a US bombing campaign designed to contain the Marxist Pathet Lao rolled over the town, they went there for shelter. This worked quite well, but the cave nevertheless had a flaw, when used as a shelter. The huge cavern has a wide entrance portal which could not be closed. On 24-NOV-1968 a United States fighter plane fired a single rocket through this portal into the cave. The huge chamber became a furnace and all villagers, 374 men, women, and children, were killed. Those which were not killed by the missile were killed by the collapsing cave ceiling. There were no survivors.

Today the site is a memorial. At the base of the mountain is a parking area and a small interpretive center which explains the significance of the site from a Laotian perspective. Along the series of steps to the cave entrance are the marked graves of the deceased. The cave itself is in the state it was in the sixties. There are dusty trails on the level cave floor and burn marks on the walls.

The site is not for entertainment, its a memorial and a graveyard, and visitors should respect the locals and show utmost respect for the deceased. Especially western tourists should avoid any disrespectful behaviour or proclamations. If you want to show your respect you should probably bring some incence sticks and burn them in front of the altar.