Laos Update: February 8, 2018

Laos Update | February 8, 2018
Authors: Matt Solomon, Ella Duangkaew, Kevin Rutigliano
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 
August 23-24, 2018: Laos Business Mission: Please save the date for the Council's annual Business Mission to Laos, taking place in Vientiane. Please contact Ella Duangkaew at eduangkaew@usasean.org with any questions.
 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Lao-Thai Railroad to Begin Phase II

On January 16, the second phase of the Lao-Thai Railway construction began after the signing of a contract between the Railway Department and the ASEAN Engineering Consultant Corporation (AEC). The contract stipulates that construction of the next phase of the railway must be completed within 46 months and is estimated to cost approximately 235.6 billion kip ($28.3 million). The second phase of the construction will run 7.5km from Thanalaeng Station in Hadxayfong District, to Vientiane Station in Khamsavath Village, Saysettha District. The first phase of the railway project commenced in 2013 and was completed in 2015, officially opening in March 2017. It has seen trains run from Thanalaeng Station in Laos across the border to Thailand. The railway is being funded by a loan and grant agreement between the Lao and Thai governments through the Neighbouring Countries Economic Development Cooperation Agency NEDA. The funding support amounts to $52.3 million. The grant accounts for 30 percent of the total cost with the rest provided through the loan.

This project, along with the construction of the Lao-Chinese Railway, is part of an ongoing effort to improve the transportation infrastructure in Laos. This effort is part of Laos’ strategy to transform itself from a land-locked country to a land-linked country. According to the Diplomat, Laos conducts 85% of its trade with its neighbors Thailand, China, and Vietnam, all of which is through overland trade routes. Land-based international trade costs can be up to 50% more expensive than other methods. Therefore, an improvement in transport connectivity is critical for Laos’ economic development.

Minimum Wage Increase Planned for this Year

The Lao Department of Labor Regulation has proposed that the minimum wage be increased from 900,000 kip (USD$108) per month to 1,100,000 kip (USD$132) per month. According to the findings of three governmental bodies, the LNCCI (Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry), the Lao Labor Union, the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, the move is necessitated by an increasing cost of living stemming from Laos’ relatively high economic growth. The government is currently undertaking a study on how the wage increase will impact the economy, after which the proposal will be considered by the Prime Minister with a target implementation date of Labor Day (May 1).

Wage increases may impose additional costs on companies operating in Laos, however the cost burden may be offset by increased purchasing power and consumption spurred by higher wages. Increased consumption would in turn increase the overall value of the market in Laos, making it a more attractive location for foreign investment in the region. The wage increases follow a regional trend, as Thailand and Myanmar have also either proposed or passed measures to raise wages. This trend reflects a regional priority to address poverty and increase the standard of living for workers.

 
 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Regional Affairs
PM witnesses signing of 12 cooperation documents with Laos
Foreign Minister Attends ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Retreat
Foreign ministers review progress in regional, global affairs
Minister to PM’s Office Attends ASEAN-India Business and Investment Meeting and Expo
PM Holds Bilateral Meetings with Vietnamese, Chinese Counterparts

National Affairs
President Urges Health Sector to Raise Quality of Medical Services
Vice Premier Pays Guidance Visit to Kommadam Academy
Prime Minister Thongloun Visits Infantry Division 1
President calls for upgrade of health services
Make the most of Pakxong’s golden land: PM
Laos, Cuba Pledge to Strengthen Cooperation on Foreign Affairs

Defense & Security
Laos, Russia Extend Defense cooperation
Laos and Cambodia to Increase Defense Cooperation

Economics
Tripartite Meeting Held to Discuss Minimum Wage Raise
Minimum Wage Increase Planned for This Year

Energy
Laos and China open Joint Lab for Renewable Energy Study
Laos pushes ahead with Mekong dams despite environmental risks
Laos to sell electricity to Myanmar
China, Laos inaugurate joint lab for renewable energy study

Food & Agriculture
Hungary provides US$160 million loan for three projects
Cassava farmers await payment five years on

Health & Life Sciences
Ministry’s new recruits to target improved mother, child health
Laos, Luxembourg to jointly manage maternal health projects

ICT
Laos to Have Digital Society Foundation Built by 2030
Public Debt Management, Added-Value Tax Draft Laws Brainstormed
Lao ministry encouraging use of local online domain
ICT businesses urged to drive economy
Vietnamese, Lao PMs attend training centre’s inaugural ceremony
Thailand, Laos ink digital agreement
Lao prime minister meets Xinhua News Agency president

Infrastructure
Sekong Expects to Attract 50,000 Tourists
Laos-China railway ‘20.3 per cent complete’, compensation still unpaid
La Khone Pheng to be Site of Sixth Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge
Lao-Thai Railway to Begin Phase II (Thanalaeng to Khamsavath)
Will costs continue to cage Laos’ regional connectivity?
 
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

PM witnesses signing of 12 cooperation documents with Laos Nhan Dan 7th Feb 2018
This is the second year that the two PMs have co-chaired the joint committee, demonstrating their determination to effectively implement their cooperation agreements in 2018. The Lao PM valued the significance of the Inter-Governmental Committee meeting while expressing his belief that the meeting would contribute to promoting the bilateral cooperation and lifting the relationship to a new level. Meanwhile, PM Phuc affirmed that Vietnam always attaches special importance to its cooperation with Laos and Vietnam will make every effort to consolidate the friendship and relationship with Laos.

Foreign Minister Attends ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Retreat KPL: Lao News Agency 7th Feb 2018
(KPL) Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Saleumxay Kommasith and his delegation attended the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Retreat in Singapore on 6 February. ASEAN Member States are currently working on two important documents, namely the “ASEAN Leaders’ Vision for a Resilient and Innovative ASEAN” and “Concept Note on the ASEAN Smart Cities Network (ASCN)” which will be submitted to the ASEAN Leaders for adoption at the 32nd ASEAN Summit to be held in April 2018.

Foreign ministers review progress in regional, global affairs Vientiane Times 6th Feb 2018
Foreign ministers came together at the Asean Foreign Ministers’ Retreat in Singapore yesterday to discuss progress on the implementation of the outcomes of the 31st Asean Summit held in Manila last November. The following adopted documents as the outcomes of the 31st Asean Summit include the declaration to prevent and combat cybercrime, the declaration on innovation, the action agenda on mainstreaming women’s economic empowerment, the declaration on culture of prevention for a peaceful, inclusive, resilient, healthy and harmonious society, and the declaration on the gender-responsive implementation of the Asean Community Vision 2025 and Sustainable Development Goals.

Minister to PM’s Office Attends ASEAN-India Business and Investment Meeting and Expo KPL: Lao News Agency 25th Jan 2018
(KPL) Minister to the Prime Minister’s Office Alounkeo Kittikhoun has led the Lao delegation to attend the ASEAN-India Business and Investment Meet and Expo held on 23 January 2018 in New Delhi, India, with the representatives from public and private sectors participating in the event. The meeting aimed to enhance economic cooperation between ASEAN and India, especially on trade and investment, and to exchange views on various issues among participants with a view to further contribute to strengthening the ASEAN-India strategic partnership in the future.

PM Holds Bilateral Meetings with Vietnamese, Chinese Counterparts KPL: Lao News Agency 25th Jan 2018
(KPL) Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith had separate bilateral meetings with his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Chinese Premier Li Keqieng on the sidelines of the 2nd Mekong-Lancang Cooperation Leaders’ Meeting in Phnom Penh on Jan 10. While meeting with the Vietnamese Prime Minister, Mr Thongloun and his Vietnamese counterpart highly valued and appreciated the successful co-organising of the celebration events of the Laos-Vietnam Friendship and Solidarity Year 2017. The two leaders also appreciated the outcomes of talks held on the sidelines of the 2nd Mekong-Lancang Cooperation Leaders’ Meeting noting that such outcomes have contributed to the success of the MLC Leaders’ Meeting.

National Affairs

President Urges Health Sector to Raise Quality of Medical Services KPL: Lao News Agency 8th Feb 2018
(KPL) President Bounnhang Vorachit has urged health sector to raise the quality of its medical services to reduce the number of local people seeking medical care in neighbouring countries. Addressing the annual meeting of the Ministry of Health in Vientiane on 7 February, President Bounnhang urged the health sector to improve the quality of medical services of central and provincial hospitals through modernizing basic infrastructure, medical equipment, developing human resources and promoting the application of information technology.

Vice Premier Pays Guidance Visit to Kommadam Academy KPL: Lao News Agency 7th Feb 2018
(KPL) Deputy Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone accompanied by senior officials of the Ministry of National Defence on Jan 17 visited Kommadam Academy, a sergeant training institute, in Vientiane Province to extend greetings to its staff, faculty member and students on the occasion of the 69th anniversary of the Lao People’s Army (Jan 20, 1959-2018). ​The visiting Vice Premier was greeted by Brig. Gen. Bounchan Ladsavong in charge of military affairs of Kommadam Academy; senior officials, teachers and students of the academy; and representatives of local authorities.

Prime Minister Thongloun Visits Infantry Division 1 KPL: Lao News Agency 7th Feb 2018
KPL) Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith on Jan 18 2018 visited Infantry Division 1 to greet and give guidance talks to its senior officials, soldiers and combatants in Vangvieng district, Vientiane Province on the occasion of the 69th anniversary of Lao People’s Army (Jan 20, 1949-2018). The prime minister was received by Governor of Vientiane Province Vidong Xayasone, the management, military officials and soldiers of the division.

President calls for upgrade of health services Vientiane Times 7th Feb 2018
President Bounnhang Vorachit has called on health administrators to identity reasons for dissatisfaction with healthcare in Laos, as more people seek treatment across the border. Mr Bounnhang made the call in his address at the annual national meeting of the health sector, which ended in Vientiane yesterday.

Make the most of Pakxong’s golden land: PM Vientiane Times 7th Feb 2018
Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith has urged Champassak provincial authorities to develop Bolaven Plateau in Pakxong district as another tourist attraction and to encourage the production of good quality agricultural produce for export. Mr Thongloun visited Pakxong district on Tuesday and met with local government officials and members of the public to learn about current developments on the Bolaven Plateau. He also advised them to use the land in ways that would yield the greatest benefit, as though Pakxong was a land of gold.

Laos, Cuba Pledge to Strengthen Cooperation on Foreign Affairs KPL: Lao News Agency 7th Feb 2018
(KPL) Laos and Cuba have pledged to strengthen the existing cooperation on foreign relations and expressed their satisfaction on growing ties and cooperation. Head of Party Central Committee’s Commission for External Relations, Mrs Sounthone Sayachack received a courtesy visit from Deputy Head of Cuban Communist Party Central Committee’s Department for External Relations, Mr Juan Carlos Marsan Aguilera and his delegation visiting Laos on January 14-16.

Cambodia

Indochinese Defence Ministers Agree to Further Enhance Trilateral Cooperation KPL: Lao News Agency 7th Feb 2018
(KPL) Lao, Vietnamese and Cambodian armies have agreed to further enhance their trilateral cooperation and solidarity. Defence Ministers from the three countries met in Vientiane on January 15. The meeting was co-chaired by Lt Gen. Chansamone Chanyalath, Minister of Defence of Laos, his Vietnamese and Cambodian counterparts, Gen. Ngo Xuan Lik and Gen. Tea Banh, respectively.

Defense & Security

Laos, Russia Extend Defense cooperation Vientiane Times 22nd Jan 2018
Laos and Russia have agreed to build on their long-established cooperation by furthering the partnership between their two armies to meet the needs of changing times. The agreement was reached yesterday during a visit by a high-level delegation from the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation led by Minister General Sergey Shoygu at the invitation of his Lao counterpart, Lieutenant General Chansamone Chanyalath.

Laos and Cambodia to Increase Defense Cooperation The Laotian Times 16th Jan 2018
Laos and Cambodia have pledged to boost security and stability between the two countries, and prevent military confrontations along their shared border. Cambodian Defense Minister General Tea Banh made an official visit to Laos this week, and was received by Lao Minister of Defense, Lt. Gen. Chansamone Chanyalath. During talks, the two ministers vowed to bring unity and cooperation between the two countries and their respective armed forces. A special mention was made of the border area in Stung Treng Province in Cambodia, and Attapeu Province in Laos, where Cambodian troops were mobilized last year after a misunderstanding led to military tensions.

Economics

Tripartite Meeting Held to Discuss Minimum Wage Raise KPL: Lao News Agency 7th Feb 2018
(KPL) A tripartite meeting between the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, the Lao National Federation of Trade Unions, and the National Chamber of Commerce and Industry was held last week in Vientiane to discuss the raise of minimum wage from current 900,000 kip, approximately US$109, per month. The meeting was co-chaired by Minister of Labour and Social Welfare Khampheng Xaysompheng, Vice President of the Lao National Federation of Trade Unions Simoun Onelasy and Vice President of the National Chamber of Commerce and Industry Vanthong Sitthikoun. Representatives of relevant sectors were also present at the meeting.

Minimum Wage Increase Planned for This Year The Laotian Times 22nd Jan 2018
From 1991 to 2015, the minimum wage has increased a total of 7 times in Laos. According to the Department of Labor Regulation, an 8th change is set to happen within this year. The proposed minimum wage increase is substantial: from 900,000 kip to 1,200,000 kip per month. Phongxaysack Inthalath, Director General of the Department of Labor Regulation, recounts the history of the Lao minimum wage dating before Asian Financial Crisis times.

Energy

Laos and China open Joint Lab for Renewable Energy Study The Laotian Times 11th Jan 2018
Laos and China have opened a joint laboratory for the study of renewable energy in Vientiane Capital, according to a press release by the Chinese Embassy in Laos. The laboratory was constructed through a partnership between the Renewable Energy and New Material Research Institute, under the Lao Ministry of Science and Technology and China’s Yunnan Normal University. The partnership is being supported by China’s Ministry of Science and Technology.

Laos pushes ahead with Mekong dams despite environmental risks Asian Correspondent 24th Jan 2018
As part of an ambitious bid to boost its hydropower output and become the ‘battery’ of Southeast Asia, the landlocked communist state of Laos now has three dam projects underway along the vast stretches of the Mekong river that wind through its rugged mountainous landscape. The new dams will add to seven already built on the Mekong’s upper reaches – otherwise known as the Lancang river – across Laos’ northern border in China, in addition to the Nam Theun II Dam, built in the late-2000s on a Mekong tributary in Laos. The dams are part of a wider infrastructure project being undertaken by Laos’ government, which aims for the isolated country to become ‘land-linked’ through the construction of a Chinese-funded railroad, as well as becoming Southeast Asia’s primary hydropower hub through the mass construction of dams. The three currently under construction are set to be joined by another six in Laos, in addition to two proposed dams in neighbouring Cambodia.

Laos to sell electricity to Myanmar Xinhua 16th Jan 2018
Office Head of the Lao Ministry of Energy and Mines, Daovong Phonekeo, told Vientiane Times that the two sides will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which will allow Myanmar authorities to initiate a feasibility study. Daovong said Laos would supply electricity to Myanmar through its northern power grids. "If everything progresses as planned, we expect to start selling electricity to Myanmar by the end of this year or the beginning of next year." Currently most of Laos' electricity is sold to Thailand.

China, Laos inaugurate joint lab for renewable energy study Xinhua 11th Jan 2018
China and Laos have inaugurated a joint lab for study of renewable energy in Laos capital Vientiane, according to the Chinese Embassy in Laos on Wednesday. The lab was jointly built by China's Yunnan Normal University and Laos Ministry of Science and Technology's Renewable Energy and New Material Research Institute with sponsorship of China's Ministry of Science and Technology in facility and talent training.

Food & Agriculture

Hungary provides US$160 million loan for three projects Vientiane Times 8th Feb 2018
The government of Hungary has provided a loan of more than US$160 million to support three projects in Laos. The loan agreement was signed yesterday in Vientiane between Deputy Minister of Finance Mrs Thipphakone Chanthavongsa, Deputy Director of the Hungarian Export-Import Bank Ms Nemedi-Varga, and Director of the Hungarian Export-Import Bank Mr Gabor Szocs. The signing was witnessed by Deputy Minister of Public Security General Sinthavong Xayakone, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Dr Phouangparisak Pravongviengkham, and Vientiane Vice Mayor Mr Keophilavanh Aphaylath.

Cassava farmers await payment five years on Vientiane Times 15th Jan 2018
Many of the nation’s cassava farmers remain desperate to recover money that the Lao-Indochina Group Public Company has owed them since failing to pay for their produce in 2012. The company’s bankruptcy resulted in the firm’s creditors, mostly cassava farmers, incurring further debts to banks, notably Nayoby Bank, leading the situation to its current deadlock. The Vientiane People’s Council debated the issue on Thursday with many members calling for the government to help resolve the problem. “Our council calls for banks to cut the interest rate on farmers’ debts and asks the government to ensure the company repays what it owes,” council member Ms Valy Vetsaphong told Vientiane Times on Friday. Ms Valy, who is also Vice President of the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the cessation or postponement of interest rate payments could be achieved if the government grants tax exemptions to those banks in this particular case.

Health & Life Sciences

Ministry’s new recruits to target improved mother, child health Vientiane Times 25th Jan 2018
The Ministry of Health aims to improve health standards in local communities by promoting volunteers to civil servant status in accordance with the quota allocated by the government for 2018. Most of this year’s quota of 440 civil servants will be taken from current volunteers who are already working in the health sector in the field of mother and child health and nutrition. Deputy Minister of Health, Associate Prof. Dr Phouthone Muongpak, said the new recruits appointed under the quota would support the development of 71 focal locations in rural areas.

Laos, Luxembourg to jointly manage maternal health projects Vientiane Times 26th Jan 2018
Laos and Luxembourg plan to better implement cooperative projects to improve maternal and child health through a joint participatory mechanism (JPM). Officials from both countries led by Dr Phasouk Vongvichit from the Department of Planning and International Cooperation, and Lao/027 Project Manager Peter Heimann began discussions on the mechanism yesterday. The two countries launched the project in 2014 with full financial support from Luxembourg to support the Lao government’s plan to reform the health sector.

ICT

Laos to Have Digital Society Foundation Built by 2030 KPL: Lao News Agency 29th Jan 2018
(KPL) Lao Government has set an ambitious plan to build foundation for digital society 2030, Minister of Post and Telecommunications, Mr Thansamay Kommasith has said. Today, ICT is growing as the application of ICT is apparently noticeable in all services and the ratio of mobile phone users, among target population, in the country represents 100 percent with the number of ICT entrepreneurs reaching 5,000, Mr Thansamay told the grand opening of the 2nd Lao ICT Expo 2018 at Lao ITECC, Vientiane, on Jan 24.

Public Debt Management, Added-Value Tax Draft Laws Brainstormed KPL: Lao News Agency 25th Jan 2018
(KPL) Ministry of Finance convened a meeting in Vientiane Capital on January 22-24 to allow representatives of relevant sectors to share comments on two draft laws on public debt management and value-added tax. The laws are expected to be proposed to the government at its monthly meeting in February and the National Assembly at its 5th Ordinary Session early this year.

Lao ministry encouraging use of local online domain The Nation 24th Jan 2018
The direction was revealed at the annual national meeting of the post and telecommunications sector, which began yesterday in Vientiane, led by Minister of Post and Telecommunications Dr Thansamay Kommasith. “The public sector will use emails with our domain system such as dot la (.la) in the coming years,” Dr Thansamay said. He explained that using the local domain would help identify the source of a particular email and this would result in more efficient communications management. According to Dr Thansamay, the domain is being used within the ministry, while similar domains for emails have been set up by the ministry as a pilot project in other ministries.

ICT businesses urged to drive economy Vientiane Times 24th Jan 2018
Information and communications technology (ICT) businesses must be the main drivers of economic growth and the process of industrialisation and modernisation in Laos. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Mr Somdy Duangdy, made the comment when stressing the encouragement given by the government to the ICT sector in his address at the annual national meeting of the post and telecommunications sector, which ended yesterday. Post and telecommunications businesses are major contributors to state revenue with the taxes and other fees paid reaching 881 billion kip last year, a 12 percent increase on the previous year.

Vietnamese, Lao PMs attend training centre’s inaugural ceremony Nhan Dan 5th Feb 2018
Prime Ministers of Vietnam and Laos Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Thonglun Sisulith attended a ceremony to inaugurate the scientific and technological human resources training centre in Vientiane, Laos on February 4. The centre is a symbol of science and technology cooperation between Vietnam and Laos as it was built by the Vietnamese Ministry of Science and Technology following the 35th meeting of the Inter-governmental Committee on Economic, Cultural, Educational, Scientific and Technological Cooperation between Vietnam and Laos in Vietnam’s Vinh Phuc province on December 19, 2012. The Ministry of Science and Technology of Vietnam and Laos worked closely and launched construction of the centre in September 2015 and made the final touches on the work in December 2017. Built at the cost of over VND98 billion from the Vietnamese Government’s ODA source, the centre is capable of training 600-800 scientific managerial officials a year and is a working place of a 70-member staff.

Thailand, Laos ink digital agreement Bangkok Post 3rd Feb 2018
Thailand and Laos signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Friday for a three-year collaboration on mail delivery, telecom and digital technology. Digital Economy and Society Minister Pichet Durongkaveroj said the MoU is a consequence of previous discussions between Deputy Prime Minister Prajin Juntong and Thansamay Kommasith, Laos's minister of post, telecommunications and communications, that took place in December 2016 at the Asean Telecom Ministries forum in Brunei. Mr Pichet said the collaboration is based on the principle of equality and reciprocity to develop long-term and sustainable cooperation. The areas of collaboration cover a variety of categories, including ICT and digital technology, policies and regulatory practices, digital government, cybersecurity, digital policy promotion, and innovations such as big data, the Internet of Things and cloud computing.

Lao prime minister meets Xinhua News Agency president Xinhua 2nd Feb 2018
Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith meets with Xinhua News Agency President Cai Mingzhao on relations and bilateral media cooperation, in Vientiane, Laos, on Feb. 2, 2018. Thongloun welcomed Cai to visit Laos and attend the first Laos-China Belt and Road Cooperation Forum. He said that the forum is an implementation of the outcomes of the attendance by Lao President Bounnhang Vorachit, also general secretary of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party Central Committee, at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing last May, and the state visit to Laos by Chinese President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, in November last year. He said Laos is among the first countries to support the Belt and Road Initiative, and the Lao strategy of turning itself from a "land-locked" country to a "land-linked" one is highly compatible with the initiative. The China-Laos railway which is expected to be completed in 2021 will benefit Laos.

Infrastructure

Sekong Expects to Attract 50,000 Tourists KPL: Lao News Agency 7th Feb 2018
KPL) Sekong province expects to attract tourists as high as 50,000 this year, Vice Governor, Mr Leklai Sivilay has said. To achieve the provincial goal and support a large sum of tourist migration, Sekong province will focus on better providing services to tourists and well managed for restaurants and hotels to welcome the Visit Laos Year 2018.

Laos-China railway ‘20.3 per cent complete’, compensation still unpaid The Nation 7th Feb 2018
Construction of the 409-km Laos-China railway was 20.3 per cent complete as of December 2017 after a whole year of operations, Lao authorities in charge said last week. The US$5.986 billion project has a re-scheduled completion date of December 2, 2021, which is 29 days earlier than the original deadline of December 31, 2021. A senior member of the Laos-China Railway Construction Project Management Committee, Mr Pothong Ngonphachanh, told the forum on Laos-China Cooperation under the One Belt, One Road initiative held in Vientiane last week that it will take five years to complete the project.  

La Khone Pheng to be Site of Sixth Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge The Laotian Times 20th Jan 2018
La Khone Pheng, a small town in Salavanh Province is to be the site of the sixth Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge, according to reports from Thai media. A Thai committee appointed to select the location for the next bridge chose Tambon Natan in Ubon Ratchathani on the Thai side, which is close to large communities and can be easily linked to existing roads. Meanwhile, Ban La Kone Pheng is one of the largest settlements in Salavanh Province, which neighbors Thailand to the west, and Vietnam to the east. The province also borders Savannakhet in the south, which now boasts the highest population in Laos.

Lao-Thai Railway to Begin Phase II (Thanalaeng to Khamsavath) The Laotian Times 20th Jan 2018
The Lao-Thai Railway Construction Project, Phase II (Section II), which will run 7.5km from Thanalaeng Station in Hadxayfong District, to Vientiane Station in Khamsavath Village, Saysettha District, is to go ahead after a consulting company has been chosen to oversee the project. A ceremony was held in Vientiane on Tuesday for the signing of a contract between Director General of the Railway Department, Mr Sengthavixay Malivanhon, and Chief Executive Adviser of the ASEAN Engineering Consultant Corp (AEC), Dr Sobchoke Srisakorn.

Will costs continue to cage Laos’ regional connectivity? East Asia Forum 12th Jan 2018
Laos is among the fastest growing economies in Southeast Asia: economic growth has averaged 7.8 per cent over the past decade. Despite the slow recovery of the global economy, the country’s growth rate was 6.9 per cent in 2017 and is expected to be 7 per cent in 2018. This is buoyed by an expansion in electricity production, manufacturing and agriculture, and it occurs despite a slight drop in tourist arrivals.

Thailand

Greater Mekong states endorse joint five-year plan The Nation 1st Feb 2018
The environment ministers of Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam attended the fifth GMS Environment Ministers’ Meeting in Chiang Mai yesterday to discuss cooperation on the five-year plan, which is supposed to support sustainable growth, promote environmentally friendly development and tackle transboundary environmental impacts within the region. Thailand’s Natural Resources and Environment Minister General Surasak Karnjanarat said the government had signed an MOU with Cambodia to work together to conserve biodiversity and manage forests and wildlife. 

China makes five proposals on securing shared future for Lancang-Mekong nations Xinhua 11th Jan 2018
With a theme of "Our River of Peace and Sustainable Development", the second Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) leaders' meeting brings leaders of China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam to the table, discussing issues such as connectivity, water management and industrial production capacity. The six countries also adopted two major documents, namely the Five-Year Action Plan (2018-2022) and the Phnom Penh Declaration at this year's meeting. Initiated by China in 2014, the framework spans connectivity, production capacity, cross-border economic cooperation, water resources management, and agriculture and poverty reduction, affecting the lives of dozens of millions of people living on the waterway.

Vietnam

VN, Laos share law-making experience vietnamnews.vn 10th Jan 2018
Vice Chairman of the National Assembly (NA) Phùng Quốc Hiển hosted a reception for head of the Economic, Technology and Environment Committee of the Lao National Assembly Bounpone Sisoulath in Hà Nội. Hien highlighted Việt Nam’s consistent policies of treasuring and giving top priority to the preservation and promotion of special ties with Laos, affirming that Việt Nam always strongly supports Laos’ national reform, defence and construction. He also lauded the fruitful cooperation between the Economic, Technology and Environment Committee of the Lao NA and the Economic Committee of the Việt Nam NA, stressing that the Vietnamese legislature will work closely with the Lao side to effectively implement their cooperation agreement.