Laos Update: December 13, 2018

Laos Update | December 13, 2018
Authors: Ella Duangkaew and Monica Chritton
 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

New Appointments Approved to Lead Central Bank and Ministry of Public Security

The Lao PDR National Assembly has approved Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith’s proposals for new appointments in the positions of Minister of Public Security and Acting Governor of Bank of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, according to reports by the Vientiane Times and Lao News Agency. The new Minister of Public Security will be the current Deputy Minister of National Defense Major General Vilay Lakhamfong, and Sonexay Sithpahaxay will become the new Acting Governor of Bank of Lao People’s Democratic Republic. It remains unclear what the policy positions are of either of these new appointees, or when they would officially begin their new positions. However, both are critical positions where new leadership could make a definitive impact on Laos’ economic development.

New leadership for the Bank of Lao PDR could be lead to movement on ongoing economic challenges and opportunities in the country. Laos has struggled with stabilizing its exchange rate in the past, as local markets have gone above the official reference rate set by the Bank of the Lao People’s Republic. It has been a continued effort by the Central Bank to impose stricter controls over the exchange rate to ensure the kip does continue to depreciate against the US Dollar. Although Lao’s Ease of Doing Business ranking fell from 141 in 2017 to 154 in 2018, in June the World Bank highlighted country’s favorable medium-term outlook for the country, with a robust 2018 growth rate of 6.7%. Stricter measures from new leadership the Bank of Lao PDR could help to cement this growth potential.

Currently, the Ministry of Public Security is mostly uninvolved in economic policy-making, which has not been the case in countries like Vietnam, where the Ministry of Public Security has taken the lead on drafting and implementing the critical Law on Cybersecurity. Given the close relationship between Laos and Vietnam, there is some likelihood that Laos may follow Vietnam’s approach to developing cybersecurity legislation, which may lead to the Lao Ministry of Public Security taking on the primary drafting role. Should this happen, it will be key for the new Minister of Public Security to transparently consult industry stakeholders to ensure that Lao cybersecurity legislation follows international best practices and enables the growth of the still-nascent digital economy in Laos. This will be key in raising Laos’ Ease of Business Doing Ranking, a top priority of Prime Minister Sisoulith, and ensuring that Laos is well-positioned to reap the full benefits of the digital economy, particularly as they take on the 2019 Chairmanship for the ASEAN Telecommunications and IT Ministers (TELMIN) Meetings.

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Regional Affairs
Regional meeting reviews progress on standards, quality
Both sides reconfirm support in sending Lao workers to Korea
Hun Sen visits Laos
Laos, Korea review cooperation in development assistance
MRC Council Reaches Conclusions On Key Policy Matters
South Korea, Laos Move to Solidify Ties

National Affairs
Ethnic groups’ conference promotes contribution to national development
Lao parliament approves government reshuffle
Everyone must be equal under the law: Civil Code drafters propose
Lao PDR Receives UN Emergency Funding For Assistance To Flood Victims In Khammuan
Gov’t Earmarks 2.54 Trillion Kip For Poverty Reduction

Customs
Laos 'might need a push' to take full advantage of border crossing

Defense & Security
Lao Defence Minister promoted to General rank
Laos, Cambodia PMs Agree To Continue Joint Patrols in Disputed Area

Energy
Laos to export over 14,000 MW of electricity by 2030
Energy, mining projects flouting rules

Food & Agriculture
Tap water business booming in Laos
Chemicals Dumped in River Kill Fish in Laos

Health & Life Sciences
Training Held To Promote Distribution Of Blood Fluke Drugs
Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia boost anti-drug cooperation
Health ministry vows to raise standards of medical staff
Thousands Of People Vaccinated Against Typhoid In Sanamxay
Lao medics partner with Thai university to battle bile duct cancer 

ICT
Electronic signature law will boost E-commerce, govt tells NA

Infrastructure
1st bridge beam erected along China-Laos railway

Manufacturing
Lao garment industry continues to face challenges

Travel & Tourism
Nation’s visitor shortfall put down to multiple causes
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

Regional meeting reviews progress on standards, quality Vientiane Times 13th Dec 2018
Experts from Laos and partner countries in the region have gathered in Vientiane for the 50th Meeting of the Asean Consultative Committee on Standards and Quality (ACCSQ) and its Related Meetings from December 10-14. Topic discussions centre around Asean economic integration with participants convinced the standards and quality considerations under the ACCSQ will contribute to fruitful economic and technical developments as well as closer ties among Asean members and dialogue partners in the region.

Both sides reconfirm support in sending Lao workers to Korea 7th Dec 2018
Labour authorities of Laos and the Republic of Korea have reconfirmed their commitment to ongoing cooperation following the two countries’ agreement on the Employment Permit System. This was the message at a workshop in Vientiane yesterday attended by Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, Mr Bounkhong Lasoukanh and Representative of the Human Resources Development Service of Korea (HRD Korea), Mr Seo Sungyoul along with participants from both nations. Under the Employment Permit System EPS-TOPIK, suitably qualified Lao workers are able to gain employment in South Korea.

Hun Sen visits Laos Khmer Times 5th Dec 2018
Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday said the government is committed to putting an end to border disputes between Cambodia and Laos by asking for France’s assistance. Mr Hun Sen began a two-day official visit to Vientiane yesterday to boost the two countries’ ties, and to resolve disputed border issues.

Laos, Korea review cooperation in development assistance Vientiane Times 3rd Dec 2018
Senior government officials and their development partners met in Vientiane on Thursday to review cooperation in the provision of Official Development Assistance (ODA) between Laos and the Republic of Korea. The meeting was attended by Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment, Dr Kikeo Chanthabouly, and a Korean ODA representative, Dr Chang Hun. The 2nd Lao PDR and Republic of Korea ODA Policy Dialogue aimed to review and further strengthen cooperation between the two nations and promote their partnership for effective development results.

MRC Council Reaches Conclusions On Key Policy Matters Lao News Agency 3rd Dec 2018
Ministerial delegates from the Mekong River Commission (MRC) Council on Wednesday reaffirmed the organization’s reform commitment and regional relevance as it agreed on key issues, including the endorsement of the selected candidate for the MRC Secretariat’s second riparian Chief Executive Officer and the annual work plan for 2019, including priority works.

South Korea, Laos Move to Solidify Ties The Diplomat 1st Dec 2018
Korea Week Festival 2018 was held in the Lao capital Vientiane in October. The opening was attended by more than 200 Lao residents as well as entrepreneurs and government officials from both Laos and South Korea. Local media outlets, including the government-run Lao News Agency, called South Korea’s first-ever cultural festival in Laos a “success,” describing it with a positive and encouraging voice. In recent months, government-controlled media outlets in Laos have beefed up coverage of South Korea. Lao News Agency’s English edition, for example, has reported on South Korea almost every week since September. November, in particular, had news on South Korea appearing on the agency’s website on daily basis.

National Affairs

Ethnic groups’ conference promotes contribution to national development Vientiane Times 13th Dec 2018
Respected representatives from ethnic groups around the country and people of Lao descent living abroad paid a courtesy visit to President Bounnhang Vorachit yesterday before attending the 3rd National Ethnic Conference in Vientiane. The conference which opens at the National Convention Centre today aims to promote the role of ethnic groups around the country in contributing to national protection and development. Before meeting with President Bounnhang, the respected representatives from ethnic groups and Lao expatriates laid a wreath at the Unknown Soldier monument, placed flower baskets at Kaysone Phomvihane Museum and Souphanouvong Museum as well as visited other important landmarks in the capital.

Lao parliament approves government reshuffle Xinhua 7th Dec 2018
The ongoing Lao National Assembly (NA) session has approved a reshuffle and appointments in public security, national defence and the banking sectors. According to the state-run Lao News Agency (KPL), the NA appointed Deputy Minister of National Defence Maj. Gen. Vilay Lakhamfong as Minister of Public Security, replacing Maj. Gen. Somkeo Silavong who will hold a senior position at the Ministry of National Defence.

Everyone must be equal under the law: Civil Code drafters propose Vientiane Times 7th Dec 2018
Law drafters have proposed that all Lao people, in all regions of the country must be equal under the law, with gender equality included in this regard. The drafting subcommittee of the Civil Code made the proposal in response to suggestions of National Assembly (NA) members at their debate on the draft of the Civil Code yesterday. The stipulation in this code regarding the duty of mutual responsibility between a couple (man and woman) if one side wants to leave after being involved in a sexual relationship before getting married, was a hot topic at the debate with many female NA members suggesting women should not have the burden of responsibility, claiming girls are always taken advantage of.

Lao PDR Receives UN Emergency Funding For Assistance To Flood Victims In Khammuan 3rd Dec 2018
The Lao PDR has succeeded in securing a grant from the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund to support the emergency response and humanitarian efforts in the aftermath of the recent floods that occurred across the country. The US$ 3.5 million grant will be used to target six hardest-hit districts in Khammuan namely Nongbok, Hinboun, Boaulapha, Mahaxay, Sebangfai and Yoummalath.

Gov’t Earmarks 2.54 Trillion Kip For Poverty Reduction Lao News Agency 3rd Dec 2018
The government has earmarked 2,548 billion kip for poverty reduction efforts in coming year. The government has an ambitious plan to have 4,649 families in 220 villages nationwide graduating from poverty, and 100 development villages announced next year, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Lien Thikeo told the 6th Ordinary Session of the National Assembly’s 8th legislature on Nov 29.

Customs

Laos 'might need a push' to take full advantage of border crossing Bangkok Post 2nd Dec 2018
Despite the upgrading of Ban Huak crossing in Phu Sang district to a permanent border checkpoint, only local residents are currently allowed to travel across the border to Laos. Wiroon Sitthuwong, chief of Phu Sang district, said the Ban Huak checkpoint operates on a border pass system, which means it remains accessible only to locals.

Defense & Security

Lao Defence Minister promoted to General rank vietnamplus.vn 11th Dec 2018
Lao President Bounnhang Vorachit on December 10 issued a decree on promoting the military rank of Defence Minister Chansamone Chanyalath from Senior Lieutenant General to General. The President assigned Prime Minister Thongloun Sisulith to direct the enforcement, the country’s Socio-Economic Daily newspaper reported on December 11.

Laos, Cambodia PMs Agree To Continue Joint Patrols in Disputed Area Laotian Times 6th Dec 2018
The governments of Laos and Cambodia have agreed in Vientiane to continue efforts to de-escalate tensions in a disputed border area. The agreement was made during Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s visit to Vientiane yesterday at the invitation of Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith.

Energy

Laos to export over 14,000 MW of electricity by 2030 China Economic Net 7th Dec 2018
Laos' electricity exports will hit 14,600 MW by 2030. At present, Laos is exporting 4,415 MW to five neighboring countries. The figures were revealed by Lao Minister of Energy and Mines Khammany Inthirath at the 6th Ordinary Session of National Assembly's 8th Legislature, local daily Vientiane Times reported on Thursday.

Energy, mining projects flouting rules Vientiane Times 3rd Dec 2018
Licences issued by authorities for some investment projects are not in line with the official plan and the appropriate steps are not always followed, the sector’s leading official said on Monday. Minister of Energy and Mines Dr Khammany Inthirath disclosed many obstacles and challenges relating to the management of the sector, when addressing the National Assembly this week. Dr Khammany blamed various sectors for not taking responsibility when difficulties arose. He said nobody responded when there was a problem and that troublesome issues were instead passed on to other agencies. Inspections by energy and mining authorities identified many management difficulties. These included issues around booking projects, selling projects and duplicating permission for a project between various levels of government and issuing licences to ineffective projects.

Food & Agriculture

Tap water business booming in Laos The Nation 4th Dec 2018
The tap-water business in Laos’ top tourist destination Luang Prabang has enormous potential for growth due to the rapid expansion of tourism, a high-speed rail project in the works and high demand for water utilities across the country, according to Exim Bank and Thai investors in Laos. Tap water supplies have gone up rapidly in recent years in lock-step with growing demand of 10-15 per cent yearly in Luang Prabang. This compares with 3 per cent annual growth in large Thai cities, says Pira Intaratood, managing director of Asia Infrastructure Management (Thailand) Ltd. AIM has won concession from the local government to supply tap water to the city.

Chemicals Dumped in River Kill Fish in Laos Radio Free Asia 30th Nov 2018
Chemicals released into a river by a Chinese-owned banana farm near the Lao capital Vientiane killed over 300 kg of fish in November, prompting warnings by authorities to local villagers not to bathe or fish in the polluted stream, sources in the country say. The release, which occurred between Nov. 7 and 9, has affected the villages of Taohai, Yai-nachalern, and Kua, which lie near the Ton river in the Sangthong district of Vientiane, sources said.

Health & Life Sciences

Training Held To Promote Distribution Of Blood Fluke Drugs Lao News Agency 7th Dec 2018
The Centre of Malariology, Parasitology and Entomology of the Ministry of Health organized in Champassak’s Khong district late last month a training event for a group of people who will distribute drugs for treating blood flukes and soil-transmitted helminths. The trainees included teachers and health workers at dispensaries, the provincial departments of health and education.

Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia boost anti-drug cooperation Khmer Times 7th Dec 2018
The event creates a good chance for the three countries to review their past cooperation and learn from the experience in the implementation of the trilateral joint statement on drug prevention adopted at the previous meeting, as well as map out orientations and plans for the time ahead, said Lao Deputy Minister of Public Security Lieutenant General Somvang Thammasith, who is also head of the Lao steering committee for drug control, combat, and prevention.

Health ministry vows to raise standards of medical staff Vientiane Times 4th Dec 2018
Health authorities say they will continue to develop the capacity and knowledge of doctors and nurses, aiming to improve the quality of health services. But they conceded that doctors’ knowledge in specialist fields was limited, including the ability to detect and identify diseases as well as effectively treat some patients. Minister of Health, Assoc. Prof. Dr Bounkong Syhavong, made the remarks in his report to the National Assembly on Thursday when he detailed developments in the health sector. To address shortcomings, authorities and medical staff across the country have worked to improve the quality health services with assistance from development partners.

Thousands Of People Vaccinated Against Typhoid In Sanamxay Lao News Agency 3rd Dec 2018
Health workers have vaccinated more than 9,100 people aged 6 months to 45 years against typhoid in Attapeu’s Sanamxay district. The district was hit by deadly flooding in late July. The vaccination has been conducted since Nov 12.The health workers also provided health checks to mothers and children in 19 target villages of the district.

Lao medics partner with Thai university to battle bile duct cancer  The Nation 1st Dec 2018
A new project is underway at the Lao Tropical and Public Health Institute to improve the treatment of bile duct cancer in Laos and reduce the number of fatalities. The project, titled “Fighting cholangiocarcinoma in the Lao PDR”, aims to provide better treatment and care of patients with bile duct cancer and to strengthen capacity in the management of the disease.

ICT

Electronic signature law will boost E-commerce, govt tells NA Vientiane Times 13th Dec 2018
The government has told the National Assembly (NA) that Laos needs to have an electronic signature law in place to boost E-commerce and facilitate E-governance. Presenting the drafted electronic signature law to the NA’s ongoing 6th ordinary session yesterday for debate, Minister of Post and Telecommunications Thansamay Kommasith said the law was essential.

Infrastructure

1st bridge beam erected along China-Laos railway Khmer Times 4th Dec 2018
The first China-Laos Railway T-shaped concrete beam has been successfully erected at the site of China Railway No.2 Engineering Group (CREC-2) here. The erection which coincided on the 43rd anniversary of National Day of Lao People’s Democratic Republic on Sunday means that the construction of China-Laos railway has been transferred from substructure to superstructure and it will become the milestone in the history of the construction of China-Laos railway, according to the CREC-2.

Manufacturing

Lao garment industry continues to face challenges Phnom Penh Post 13th Dec 2018
Local clothing manufacturers are encountering ongoing hurdles to survive and thrive, according to the Association of the Lao Garment Industry. Customers want quality products and the manufacturers hold little power to bargain as their costs rise while the prices received remain constant, the association’s president Xaybandith Rasphone pointed out at the eighth general assembly of the association in Vientiane last week.

Travel & Tourism

Nation’s visitor shortfall put down to multiple causes Vientiane Times 7th Dec 2018
Annual visitor arrivals are expected to reach just 4 million, well short of the government’s target of around 5 million to mark its Visit Laos Year 2018, a minister has told the National Assembly. Causes of the visitor shortfall included natural disasters across many provinces and the flow on effects to tourism, the facilitation of tourism development is still not good enough, and the rollout of infrastructure development such as roads to tourist sites is slow with insufficient budget, Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Prof. Dr Bosengkham Vongdara told the Assembly’s ongoing sixth ordinary session recently. Other challenges consisted of limited air services to transport visitors, sluggish tourist attraction development, along with slow service through immigration points and at tourist sites.