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Vietnamese Bank Official (Almost) Makes Off With Lao Buddha Statue

A Vietnamese bank executive managed to get his hands on a Buddhist statue believed to be about 500 years old from a Lao Buddhist temple in the capital Vientiane—but only for five hours.

It all started last year when Ha Bac Tran, chairman and general director of the Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV) headquartered in Hanoi, visited Ongtue Wat in Mixay village near the Mekong River in the capital’s Chanthaburi district. He was accompanied by a deputy minister from Vietnam’s Ministry of National Defense.

BIDV, which provides banking products and services to individuals, corporate customers and financial institutions in Vietnam, also has business interests in Laos where it owns a joint venture—Laos-Viet Bank (LVB)—with its partner Banque Pour Le Commerce Exterieur Lao, according to the Vientiane Times. LVB is one of the large-scale commercial banks operating in Laos.

The two banks have given millions of U.S. dollars to Laos for social welfare activities, such as health care, education and poverty reduction. Last October, they gave U.S. $300,000 to the Lao National Assembly, or parliament to build clean water tankers and provide medical equipment to ethnic minorities in Saysomboun province near Vientiane, according to local reports.

It was during this initial visit to Ongtue Wat, which houses one of the country’s largest bronze Buddhas, that Tran is believed to have expressed an …..

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