Posts Tagged ‘Laos’
HANOI, Aug. 2 (Xinhua) — The fourth conference of the National Assembly (NA)’s Committee for External Relations of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam (CLV) opened in Vietnam’s central Nghe An province, some 260 km south of capital Hanoi on Thursday.
Themed “The role of NA in supporting development in the triangle area,” the conference aims at strengthening and promoting cooperative relations for the socio-economic development in border areas.
Addressing the conference, Uong Chu Luu, vice chairman of Vietnam’s NA said that the conference is an opportunity to discuss and share experiences on the development of the triangle area and set cooperation directions for the related agencies.
Speaking highly of the role of three countries’ NAs Luu proposed to continue revise the establishment of the Inter-NA Committee in order to supervise and support the implementation of the policies and agreements reached by the three countries’NAs.
During the conference, heads of Laos and Cambodia delegations shared the views that the CLV development in triangle area is of great significance in such fields as society, economy, security and national defense for all three countries.
The CLV development triangle area consists of 13 provinces including five in Vietnam, four in Laos and four in Cambodia.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary visit Lao PM
VIENTIANE, Laos (AP) — Hillary Rodham Clinton became the first U.S. secretary of state to visit Laos in more than five decades, gauging whether a place the United States pummeled with bombs during the Viet War could evolve into a new foothold of American influence in Asia.
Clinton met with the communist government’s prime minister and foreign minister in the capital of Vientiane on Wednesday, part of a weeklong diplomatic tour of Southeast Asia. The goal is to bolster America’s standing in some of the fastest growing markets of the world, and counter China’s expanding economic, diplomatic and military dominance of the region.
Thirty-seven years since the end of America’s long war in Indochina, Laos is the latest test case of the Obama administration’s efforts to “pivot” U.S. foreign policy away from the long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It follows a long period of estrangement between Washington and a once hostile Cold War-era foe, and comes as U.S. relations warm with countries such as Myanmar and Vietnam.
In her meetings, Clinton discussed environmental concerns over a proposed dam on the Mekong River, investment opportunities and joint efforts to clean up the tens of millions of unexploded bombs the U.S. dropped on Laos during the Vietnam War. Greater American support programs in these fields will be included in a multimillion-dollar initiative for Southeast Asia to be announced later this week.
After the meetings, she said they “traced the arc of our relationship from addressing the tragic legacies of the past to finding a way to being partners of the future.”
Clinton also visited a Buddhist temple and a U.S.-funded prosthetic center for victims of American munitions.
At the prosthetic center, she met a man named Phongsavath Souliyalat, who told her how he had lost both his hands and his eyesight from a cluster bomb on his 16th birthday.
“We have to do more,” Clinton told him. “That’s one of the reasons I wanted to come here today, so that we can tell more people about the work that we should be doing together.”
The last U.S. secretary of state to visit Laos was John Foster Dulles in 1955. His plane landed after being forced to circle overhead while a water buffalo was cleared from the tarmac.
At that time, the mountainous, sparsely populated nation was at the center of U.S. foreign policy. On leaving office, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned his successor, John F. Kennedy, that if Laos fell to the communists, all Southeast Asia could be lost as well.
While Vietnam ended up the focal point of America’s “domino theory” foreign policy, Laos was drawn deeply into the conflict as the U.S. funded its anti-communist forces and bombed North Vietnamese supply lines and bases.
The U.S. dropped more than 2 million tons of bombs on the impoverished country during its “secret war” between 1964 and 1973 — about a ton of ordnance for each Laotian man, woman and child. That exceeded the amount dropped on Germany and Japan together in World War II, making Laos the most heavily bombed nation per person in history.
Four decades later, American weapons are still claiming lives. When the war ended, about a third of some 270 million cluster bombs dropped on Laos had failed to detonate, leaving the country awash in unexploded munitions. More than 20,000 people have been killed by ordnance in postwar Laos, according to its government, and contamination throughout the country is a major barrier to agricultural development.
Cleanup has been excruciatingly slow. The Washington-based Legacies of War says only 1 percent of contaminated lands have been cleared and has called on Washington to provide far greater assistance. The State Department has provided $47 million since 1997, though a larger effort could make Laos “bomb-free in our lifetimes,” California Rep. Mike Honda argued.
“Let us mend the wounds of the past together so that Laos can begin a new legacy of peace,” said Honda, who is Japanese-American.
The U.S. is spending $9 million this year on cleanup operations for unexploded ordnance in Laos, but is likely to offer more in the coming days.
It is part of a larger Obama administration effort to reorient the direction of U.S. diplomacy and commercial policy as the world’s most populous continent becomes the center of the global economy over the next century. It is also a reaction to China’s expanding influence.
Despite America’s difficult history in the region, nations in Beijing’s backyard are welcoming the greater engagement — and the promise of billions of dollars more in American investment. The change has been sudden, with some longtime U.S. foes now seeking a relationship that could serve at least as a counterweight to China’s regional hegemony.
Myanmar, also known as Burma, has made significant strides toward reform and democracy after decades as an international pariah, when it was universally scorned for its atrocious labor rights record and its long repression of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s pro-democracy movement. The Obama administration is expected to ease investment restrictions in the country this week.
Vietnam, threatened by Beijing’s claims to the resource-rich South China Sea, has dramatically deepened diplomatic and commercial ties with the United States, with their two-country trade now exceeding $22 billion a year — from nothing two decades ago. Clinton on Tuesday made her third trip to the fast-growing country, meeting with senior communist officials to prod them into greater respect for free expression and labor rights.
Landlocked and impoverished Laos offers fewer resources than its far larger neighbors and has lagged in Asia’s economic boom. It remains one of the poorest countries in Asia, even as it hopes to kick-start its development with accession soon to the World Trade Organization.
In recent years, China has stepped up as Laos’ principal source of assistance, with loans and grants of up to $350 million over the last two decades. But like many others in its region, Laos’ government is wary of Beijing’s intentions. And it has kept an envious eye on neighboring Vietnam’s 40 percent surge in commercial trade with the United States over the last two years, as well as the sudden rapprochement between the U.S. and nearby Myanmar.
Persistent human rights issues stand in the way of closer relations with Washington. The U.S. remains concerned about the plight of the ethnic Hmong minority, most of whom fled the country after fighting for a U.S.-backed guerilla army during the Vietnam War. Nearly 250,000 resettled in the United States. The U.S. has pressed Laos to respect the rights of returnees from neighboring countries.
Washington also has been seeking greater cooperation from Laos on the search for U.S. soldiers missing in action since the Vietnam War. More than 300 Americans remain unaccounted for in Laos.
And it is pressing the government to hold off on a proposed $3.5 billion dam project across the Mekong River. The dam would be the first across the river’s mainstream and has sparked a barrage of opposition from neighboring countries and environmental groups, which warn that tens of millions of livelihoods could be at stake.
The project is currently on hold and Washington hopes to stall it further with the promise of funds for new environmental studies.
9 December 2011, The BKKPost
The United States welcomed on Thursday a delay by Southeast Asian nations on approving a controversial hydropower dam in Laos, voicing fear about the environmental effects for the Mekong River.
Laos failed at a meeting to win approval from Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam to go ahead with the $3.8 billion Xayaburi dam, which activists say could spell disaster for the roughly 60 million people who depend on the waterway.
During a meeting with Mekong nations in July, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “that there’s a very serious question about this new dam and possible environmental ramifications,” her spokesman Mark Toner said.
“So we view it as a positive sign that they’re delaying looking at it,” Toner told reporters in Washington.
Senator Jim Webb, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on East Asia and has been an outspoken critic of the dam, called the delay “an important step toward responsible policy.”
“The United States and the global community have a strategic and moral obligation to preserve the health and well-being of the people who depend on the Mekong River for their livelihoods and way of life,” Webb said in a statement.
The Mekong nations, at their meeting Thursday in Cambodia, called for further study on sustainable development and the potential effects of the project, which would be the first of 11 dams on the mainstream lower Mekong.
Cambodia and Vietnam fear the effects of the 1,260 megawatt Xayaburi dam on their farming and fishing industries. Thailand, however, has been more enthusiastic and has agreed to buy 95 percent of the electricity from the dam.
President Barack Obama’s administration launched the Lower Mekong Initiative in hopes of supporting the environment, health and education in the populous region, as part of a renewed effort to build relations with Southeast Asia.
HANOI, July 25 (Xinhua) — A seminar was held here on Monday among senior officials and delegates from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam who shared their experience in devising and implementing international economic integration policies to serve their countries’ sustainable development.
According to Vietnam News Agency (VNA), participants agreed that their countries should promote cooperation in the sub-regional, regional and inter-regional frameworks to make the best use of opportunities and minimize challenges from international economic integration.
Vietnamese Deputy Foreign Minister Doan Xuan Hung suggested the four countries continue to actively take part in international economic integration and closely coordinate to contribute to building the ASEAN community.
Asian Development Bank (ADB) Country Director Tomoyumi Kimura spoke highly of prospects for cooperation in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS), saying that 55 projects worth 14 billion U.S. dollars in total have been carried out in the GMS framework.
ADB will further cooperate with the four countries and assist existing sub-regional cooperation mechanisms to help them in their international economic integration and maintaining sustainable development, said Kimura.
The seminar is part of a cooperation project between the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Germany’s Hanns Seidel Foundation to help Vietnam and regional countries in international economic integration, VNA reported.
VIENTIANE, July 5 (Xinhua) — More than 37,000 people in five provinces in Laos received donations of rice and vegetable oil from the World Food Program (WFP) through the United States Embassy to Laos to cover their basic nutritional needs ahead of the next harvest.
People in Khammuane, Savannakhet, Saravane, Sekong and Attapeu provinces received a three-month food ration of 1,460 metric tons of rice and 100 metric tons of vegetable oil to address shortages caused by severe drought and flash floods in 2010.
Cornelia Paetz, Public Information Officer of WFP, told Xinhua on Tuesday that the contribution was confirmed in May, explaining that “food is already being moved and is expected to arrive in Laos in August or September this year.”
WFP will work with the Lao government and non-governmental organizations to assist all affected communities in the five provinces.
“The months before the wet season rice is harvested in November are known as the lean season because food stocks are at their lowest,” said Eri Kudo, WFP Country Representative to Laos, adding that “on top of these seasonal shortages, farmers who suffered from erratic weather in 2010 have had a reduced harvest and are now left with no food to feed their families.”
Families who were affected by Typhoon Ketsana in late 2009 were among the hardest hit by adverse weather conditions in 2010. The prolonged dry season, lasting throughout June, forced farmers to replant their fields several times, exhausting the already stretched resources of the poorest families. When the rains did arrive, some villages suffered from flash floods that washed out newly planted fields.
In 2010, WFP Lao PDR provided close to 17,500 metric tons of food to 665,900 people throughout the country.
A 2010 Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission conducted jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization and WFP identified over 111,000 people in central and southern Lao in need of food assistance before the next harvest.
VIENTIANE, June 15 (Xinhua) — Politburo member of the Central Committee of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party Pany Yathotu was elected to retain her position as president of the National Assembly (NA) of Laos on Wednesday morning, the first day of the First Session of the seventh Lao NA.
Pany was first elected as president of the NA of Laos after a cabinet reshuffle in December 2010.
This session of the 132-member assembly, which was convened Wednesday in the Lao capital of Vientiane and will conclude on June 24, is to vote on the country’s state leadership for the next five-year tenure and discuss issues relating to the assembly’s apparatus.
The ten-day session will also define orientations for the NA’s general affairs, discuss the government’s seventh five-year socio-economic development plan for 2011-2015, and adopt the amended statute on tax.
By Olivia Rondonuwu
Sobbing in an Indonesian hospital, a Rohingya migrant from Myanmar said Thursday he faced certain death if forced home, piling more pressure on countries in the region to treat the Muslim minority as refugees.
“We have heard we’d be sent back to Myanmar,” Noor Mohammad, one of a group of Rohingya who washed up off the coast of Indonesia’s Aceh province three weeks ago, told Al Jazeera English Television.
“In that case, we will ask the Indonesians to kill us. Better we die in the hands of Muslims,” he added. “If we go back, we’ll definitely be killed.”
His testimony shines a harsh light on the plight of the former Burma’s estimated 800,000 Rohingya, and the Thai military’s handling of the hundreds who flee in rickety wooden boats every year in search of better lives.
The Thai army has admitted to towing hundreds far out to sea before cutting them adrift, but has insisted they had adequate food and water and denied persistent reports the boats’ engines were sabotaged.
Of 1,000 Rohingya given such treatment since early December, 550 are feared to have drowned.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who has made much of his respect for human rights in his six weeks in office, has also tried to paint the Rohingya as illegal economic migrants rather than genuine asylum seekers.
In its preliminary look at the 193 who washed up on Aceh, Jakarta came to a similar conclusion.
Neither Thailand nor Indonesia are signatories to the widely accepted 1951 Refugee Convention which defines who is a refugee, their rights and the legal obligation of states.
TRANSPARENT INVESTIGATION PROMISED
The view of Indonesia and Thailand that they are economic migrants is at odds with Mohammad’s testimony, as well as that of a group 78 Rohingya now in Thai police custody with wounds on their bodies they say were inflicted by Myanmar naval officials.
Mohammad said his group were intercepted by the Myanmar navy as they chugged south towards Thailand and Malaysia, and were beaten but then released.
“We were told by the navy not to come this way again and to tell others to also not come this way,” he said, adding they were then given some fuel, a compass and directions to Thailand. “When we got to Thailand we were tortured and detained.”
Thailand promised a transparent investigation into the allegations of army abuse, but said the probe would be led by the shadowy military unit at the heart of the scandal.
More than two weeks after the reports first emerged, it remains unclear why the army’s Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC), set up in the Cold War to oversee anti-communist death squads, is now in charge of stopping Rohingya migrants.
“It’s our internal arrangement and if the military investigation is not satisfactory, we can set up another group to do it,” Foreign Minister Kasit Piromyas told reporters after meeting U.N. refugee officials in Bangkok.
Shortly after the meeting, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) officials were allowed access to 12 minors among the 78 in police custody in the Thai province of Ranong. The group are due to be deported after five days detention.
UNHCR spokeswoman Kitty McKinsey said the children, aged between 14 and 17, were in good condition, wearing clean clothes and able to talk freely. She said she could not reveal details of what they said before approval from the Thai government.
“They expressed their extreme gratitude to the Thai navy for saving their lives,” she said.
According to the UNHCR, 230,000 Rohingya now live in Bangladesh, having fled their ancestral homes in northwest Myanmar after decades of abuse and harassment at the hands of its Buddhist military rulers.
The junta does not recognise them as one of the country’s 130-odd ethnic minorities, and those in the northwest are restricted from travel inside the country. Besides Bangladesh, there are large numbers of Rohingya in Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.
(Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Darren Schuettler and Jeremy Laurence)