Laos Update: July 24, 2019

Laos Update | July 24, 2019
Authors: Riley Smith, Ella Duangkaew, Chase Blazek
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 
  • 2019 Business to the ASEAN Ministers on Energy Meeting (AMEM), September 3-5, Bangkok, Thailand: The Council is now registering senior-level executives for its Business Mission to the 37th ASEAN Ministers on Energy Meeting (AMEM) in Bangkok, Thailand. The mission will take place Tuesday, September 3, to Thursday, September 5 and will consist of bilateral meetings with ASEAN Energy Ministers and AMEM Dialogue Partners. Click here to register before August 20. Please contact Riley Smith (rsmith@usasean.org) with any questions. 
  • 2019 Business Mission to ASEAN Economic Ministers' (AEM) Meeting, September 8-10, Bangkok, Thailand: The Council is now registering executives for its Business Mission to the 51st ASEAN Economic Ministers' (AEM) Meeting in Bangkok, Thailand. The mission will take place Sunday, September 8, to Tuesday, September 10, and will consist of bilateral meetings with ASEAN Economic Ministers, as well as U.S. Government officials from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), the U.S. Mission to ASEAN, and the U.S. Embassy in Thailand. The Council will also present its recommendations on how to deepen economic integration in ASEAN during the annual AEM-USTR consultation. Click here to register before August 25. Please contact Riley Smith (rsmith@usasean.org) or Mario Masaya (mmasaya@usasean.org) with any questions.
 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

China-Laos Railway Progressing Rapidly, One Part of Pan-ASEAN Rail Project

Contractors have recently declared the China-Laos railway 50% complete and estimate it will be finished by December 2021. The US$7 billion project, designed and built by China, will connect the Lao capital of Vientiane with southwestern China’s Kunming via high-speed rail. Eventually, this route will link up with another line going from Thailand’s Nong Khai province (across the river from Vientiane) to Bangkok, which is projected to be finished by 2023. Both the China-Laos and cross-Thailand lines are part of a broader Trans-ASEAN high speed railway link that aims to eventually connect China to Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Malay peninsula before terminating in Singapore. A prime example of China’s Belt and Road Initiative and the concerns that come with it – project that provide a disproportionate economic benefit to China and which are financed through large amounts of debt – the  Laos-China railway is scheduled to finish faster than the other portions, in part due to Laos’ one-party Government and its commitment to transforming Laos from a landlocked to a “land-linked” country.

Upon completion, the China-Laos railway is expected to reduce Lao export costs (see the Council’s May 2 Laos Update) and strengthen it tourism industry by making travel cheaper and faster. For example, the travel time between Vientiane and Laos’ northern border with China will drop from two days to three hours. However, there are concerns that Laos might not benefit as much as it could from commerce passing through to other countries, especially when other parts of the pan-ASEAN railway are completed (please see the Council’s October 10 Laos Update for more details on this concern). In addition, if Laos’ domestic markets are unprepared to compete with those of broader Asia, this rail network would likely bring steep competition into the local market. 

Greater connectivity could pair inexpensive labor from Laos with abundant capital in Singapore and China, resulting in more jobs for Laotians and cheaper projects for Asian investors.  However, if China’s behavior is any marker of future cross-border projects, this win-win scenario may be difficult to achieve.  Though the China-Laos railway has created over 5,000 jobs for Laos, the bulk of the work has been done by 30,000 Chinese workers, which is likely to have hampered capacity building and skills training among the local workforce. . In addition, while China is committed to bankrolling 70 percent of the railway’s US$7 billion price tag, the Lao Government still requires Chinese loans to pay for the other 30 percent. Just recently, in late 2018, Laos had to pass an urgent budget request of US$60 million for the Ministry of Public Works and Transport to pay the country’s yearly portion of the bill.

Despite high costs and questionable benefits, the Lao Government may see few other options for rapid modernization. Without the railway, Laos would still be left with tourism and export markets underserved by inadequate and deficient infrastructure.  Thus, all signs point to the China-Laos railway pushing full-speed ahead. In addition, some of Laos’ provincial governments are planning for an economic boom by improving infrastructures and drafting economic development plans for areas near the new rail lines. Though the success of such efforts hinges on the completion of the pan-ASEAN railway, this trend shows an opportunity for American firms to invest in and help develop regions that could might benefit from the project. Moreover, as the Lao government is fully committed to this project, secondary infrastructure tenders (not solely devoted to Chinese contractors) may be forthcoming as Vientiane begins to contemplate the economic ripple effects of China-Laos railway.

Laos Requires News Outlets with Social Media Pages to Register with the Government

On July 12, Laos’ Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism (MICT) announced that media organizations that use social media accounts to disseminate news would have to register with the Ministry’s Media Department. A media organization, under the 2016 Media Law, is loosely defined based on objectives, ideology, media type, equipment, and organizational structure. The announcement comes as the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP) is attempting to address the dissemination of fake news over new media. One such example of which was a recent report that falsely alleged that a high-level Cabinet reshuffle was imminent. Despite concerns over falso news reports, many [who?] see this move as an effort to extend state censorship to the growing realm of social media. While being embarrassing for the Lao Government, global news advocates cite last year's dam collapse in Attapeu as an example of the crucial role that news spread over social media can play in saving lives. 

Under the Law on Cybercrime Prevention, using social media to cause any loss or damage is a crime punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of up to 20 million kip (roughly US$2300). But in 2017, Lao workers who slandered the government over Facebook while working abroad were sentenced to between 12 and 20 years in prison, underscoring the subjectivity in the enforcement of punishments linked to on social media cases. While the latest order from MICT does not target social media companies directly, if the Lao Government does perceive that it is making progress in combatting fake news, then it may increasingly lay the responsibility for policing their platforms on the social media companies.  . Also, given the strong growth in mobile broadband services predicted for Laos over the next five years, and considering only 39% of Lao citizens are currently on social media, it is likely that government efforts to expand regulatory oversight of new media will increase as connectivity grows.

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Regional Affairs
Laos, Vietnam Hold Fourth Political Consultation In Vientiane

National Affairs
Ministry publicises law on country’s overseas representatives
Lao Civil Servants told to Mind Manners, Stop Abusing Position

Customs
Laos heading for half-year trade surplus
Ways sought to bolster Vietnam - Laos trade turnover

Defense & Security
UK provides over 9 billion kip for UXO clearance

Economics
Workshop Held On Amendments To Enterprise Bankruptcy Regulation
Laos Sees Drop in Foreign Direct Investment Inflow

Energy
Laos to Tighten Regulations on Gas Stations
Laos, Russia announce cooperation in numerous fields
Lao Government Begins Plan to Inspect 55 Dams One Year After PNPC Disaster

Food & Agriculture
Major int’l boost planned for agricultural development
Govt takes active steps to penetrate Chinese market
US helps Laos expand agriculture networks
U.S. Partners With Lao Farmers To Support, Expand Trade
Lao markets eyeing more agricultural imports
IFAD President to visit Lao PDR and Cambodia to discuss investments in food security
Philippines bans pork, products from ASF-hit Laos

Health & Life Sciences
MoH Reports Dengue Death Toll, Infection Are Rising
World Population Day Celebrated, Tremendous Progress Recognised
Laos Issues Nationwide Dengue Warning
Dengue Kills 25, Infects Over 10,000
International Conference Held On Health Strategy Transformation
Resistant malaria spreading in South East Asia
Health authorities redoubling efforts to limit dengue fever outbreak
Food fortification must improve Lao people’s health

ICT
Lao delegates push for regional media cooperation
Laos Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband Market Growth Analysis
Laos Moves to Register Private Online News Sites in a Bid to Control ‘Fake News’
Ministry orders registration of social media news platforms
Huawei to Boost Presence in Laos amid US Sanctions
Embrace 5G cloud future: Huawei’s debut at Lao expo

Infrastructure
Laos seeks South Korea support for regional connectivity projects
Heading south at speed: The China–Laos railway
Laos seeks Korea’s support for regional connectivity projects
Can the China–Laos railway keep on track?
Northern Lao province eyes development in conjunction with China-Laos railway
Lao gov't to get prepared to benefit from China-Laos railway
China, Laos to boost cooperation on road, bridge construction
New, shorter road to Luang Prabang now open

Travel & Tourism
Thailand's First Bullet Train to Include Laos as Destination
Laos, Thailand Sign New Cross-border Road and Rail Deal
Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam intensify tourism connectivity
The Laos eVisa is Now Available
Laos works to develop tourism
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

Laos, Vietnam Hold Fourth Political Consultation In Vientiane KPL - Lao News Agency 19th Jul 2019
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Khamphao Ernthavanh and her Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Quoc Dung co-chaired the 4th political consultation between the two Ministries of Foreign Affairs in Vientiane on Jul 16. Both sides expressed their delight at the positive progress in the bilateral relations between Laos and Vietnam, with a wide range of important cooperative activities held in the first half of 2019, including the official friendship visit to Laos by Vietnamese Party General Secretary and President Nguyen Phu Trong in February.

National Affairs

Ministry publicises law on country’s overseas representatives Vientiane Times 24th Jul 2019
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs held a meeting on Friday to explain the Law on Overseas Representative Agencies of the Lao PDR to its civil servants. Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Saleumxay Kommasith presided over the meeting. The National Assembly approved the law at its ordinary session last December, and President Bounnhang Vorachit announced the promulgation of this second law for the foreign affairs sector one month later.

Lao Civil Servants told to Mind Manners, Stop Abusing Position Laotian Times 24th Jul 2019
The Lao government has issued a new decree on the ethics and morals of civil servants, including a revised code of conduct, which will come into effect early next month. The decree, No. 184/GoL issued June 29 2019,  and signed off by Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, serves as a reference point for members of Party and government and mass organizations, and to educate civil servants, ensuring they take full responsibility in their roles, follow the law, and treat all citizens and residents with equal politeness and respect.

Customs

Laos heading for half-year trade surplus Phnom Penh Post 19th Jul 2019
Laos is likely to enjoy a trade surplus of about $121 million for the first six months of this year, even as the government is predicting an overall trade deficit of around $259 million for this year. Projected exports for the first six months of this year are $2.409 billion or 55.2 per cent of the annual plan ($5.516 billion) with imports at $2.288 billion or 39.6 per cent of the yearly plan ($5.775 billion), Minister of Planning and Investment Souphanh Keomixay informed a meeting of cabinet members, provincial governors and the Vientiane mayor in the capital last week.

Ways sought to bolster Vietnam - Laos trade turnover Voice of Vietnam 4th Jul 2019
Concerned efforts would be exerted to enable Vietnam’s full-year 2019 exports to Laos to grow by 10 per cent on year.The target was mentioned at a recent border trade promotion conference held in Xiengkhuang province in Laos. The event aimed at enhancing border trade cooperation between the four Vietnamese frontier provinces of Dien Bien, Son La, Thanh Hoa, and Nghe An and the four northern localities of Laos, including Luang Prabang, Phongsaly, Houaphanh, and Xiengkhuang.

Defense & Security

UK provides over 9 billion kip for UXO clearance Vientiane Times 19th Jul 2019
The government of the United Kingdom will provide grant aid worth more than 9 billion kip (US$1,078,253) for long-term commitment to supporting the Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) clearance activities in Laos implemented by Norwegian People’s Aid. The funding will be provided to support UXO clearance in Saravan, Champassak, Xekong and Attapeu provinces from July 2019 to March 2020.

Economics

Workshop Held On Amendments To Enterprise Bankruptcy Regulation KPL - Lao News Agency 24th Jul 2019
The Ministry of Justice on July 18 organized a consultation workshop on draft amendments to the Law on Rehabilitation and Bankruptcy of Enterprise. The draft amendments are expected to be soon submitted to the National Assembly for consideration for approval. The meeting was held in Vientiane Capital in the presence of the Vice Minister of Justice Seumsouk Simphavong, World Bank Group Senior Financial Sector Specialist Nina Mocheva, and relevant officials.

Laos Sees Drop in Foreign Direct Investment Inflow Laotian Times 15th Jul 2019
Foreign direct investment (FDI) inflow to Laos decreased in 2018 amid a drop in new investment from China, a recent report has shown. FDI inflow to Laos last year stood at USD 1.3 billion, a 17 percent drop from the previous year, according to the World Investment Report 2019 by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

Energy

Laos to Tighten Regulations on Gas Stations Laotian Times 22nd Jul 2019
Laos will tighten regulations on the location of fuel depots and gas stations in residential areas to ensure the safety of residents. According to a newly amended ministerial decision, fuel depots must be located one kilometer from residential areas, schools, hospitals, protected areas, temples, and rivers. As for gas stations, they should be located 100 meters from residential areas, key government buildings, temples, and television and radio stations.

Laos, Russia announce cooperation in numerous fields Eleven Media Group Co., Ltd 2nd Jul 2019
Lao Minister of Planning and Investment, Dr Souphanh Keomixay, and Minister of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media of the Russian Federation, Mr Konstantin Noskov, signed an agreement to cooperate in these areas, during Dr Souphanh’s visit to the Russian Federation last week. Under the agreement, the two parties will implement the agreed areas of cooperation through joint participation.

Lao Government Begins Plan to Inspect 55 Dams One Year After PNPC Disaster ReliefWeb 3rd Jul 2019
The Lao government is embarking on an plan to inspect all 55 dams in the country nearly one year after the collapse of a saddle dam that caused a disaster described as Laos’ worst flooding in decades. The disaster occurred on July 23, 2018, when a saddle dam at the Xe Pian Xe Namnoy (PNPC) hydropower project collapsed following heavy rains, inundating 12 villages and killing at least 40 people in Champassak and Attapeu provinces, leaving many more missing. The government inspection is focusing on the structure, design and technical specification of the dams, while inspectors are also checking whether the dam developers are properly insured and have knowledgeable consultants on hand.

Food & Agriculture

Major int’l boost planned for agricultural development Vientiane Times 24th Jul 2019
The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) plans to approve significant new financial assistance to implement a project in rural areas focusing on boosting commercial production. The project, as part of ongoing assistance, will run from 2020-2026 at a cost of US$30 million with the funding expected to be approved this year. An official revealed the details to the media as IFAD President Mr Gilbert F. Houngbo and his delegation checked on project progress in Xieng Khuang province this week.

Govt takes active steps to penetrate Chinese market Vientiane Times 24th Jul 2019
The government has given the green light for Chinese companies to develop trade-facilitation related infrastructure and invest in agriculture with a view to bolstering exports to China. The move is part of the government’s preparations to capitalise on the US$5.9-million Laos-China railway, which is slated for completion in 2021. Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Dr Lien Thikeo told Vientiane Times recently that Laos is currently building the nation’s biggest modern warehouse, located in Vientiane.

US helps Laos expand agriculture networks Asia News Network 12th Jul 2019
The United States has agreed to expand support for Laos through the Creating Linkages for Expanded Agriculture Network (CLEAN) project, which is helping improve the quality of farmers’ products and expand exports. Winrock International on Wednesday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Department of Agriculture to carry out the CLEAN project in Laos.

U.S. Partners With Lao Farmers To Support, Expand Trade KPL - Lao News Agency 11th Jul 2019
On July 10, 2019 in Vientiane, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of the Lao PDR and Winrock International signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to expand programmes designed to strengthen local farmers and expand their markets through the Agriculture Creating Linkages for Expanded Agricultural Networks (CLEAN) project, which is funded by the United States.

Lao markets eyeing more agricultural imports Eleven Media Group Co., Ltd 22nd Jul 2019
Laos may have to import more agricultural produce to meet the growing demand for fresh fruit and vegetables. The Aussie Lao fresh market in Sikhottabong district, which is one of the largest markets in Vientiane, may have to sell more imported products, market authorities told Vientiane Times yesterday. Last year, the market imported 15 per cent of the produce it sold from Thailand and 15 per cent from Vietnam, while some produce came from other provinces in Laos. Most of the items imported were tomatoes, eggplant, chillies, limes, onion, garlic, fruit and some other vegetables. Although Lao growers supply about 70 per cent of the produce sold in local markets, consumers still pay more compared to Thailand and Vietnam. People earning middle level and high incomes tend to cross the border into Thailand to shop, while some buy goods to sell in Laos, according to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce. Domestic producers and entrepreneurs have not been able to compete with imported products and struggle to expand their operations.

IFAD President to visit Lao PDR and Cambodia to discuss investments in food security Devdiscourse 18th Jul 2019
The President of the United Nations' International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Gilbert F. Houngbo, will meet the Prime Minister of the Lao People's Democratic Republic (PDR), Thongloun Sisoulith, the Prime Minister of Cambodia, Hun Sen, other high-ranking officials, as well as representatives of UN teams in country, to discuss investments that can improve food and nutrition security, generate employment and mitigate the effects of climate change in rural areas. The visit will focus on the role of smallholder farmers in improving household nutrition and food security. The delegation will be in Lao PDR 22 -25 July and in Cambodia 25 – 27 July. "In Lao PDR and Cambodia, the majority of smallholder farmers practice subsistence agriculture, but they have the potential to develop their farm businesses if they have access to finance, training, technology, and commercial markets," said Houngbo before his visit. "IFAD is an experienced development partner, working with governments to transform rural areas, reduce poverty and hunger, and increase livelihoods for rural smallholders in the region," he added. In Lao PDR, approximately 80 percent of the population live in rural areas and depend on agriculture and natural resources for their survival. Most farmers use traditional farming methods and lack access to irrigation and good roads. Many struggles to meet their households' food requirements, making malnutrition a critical issue, with chronic malnutrition affecting 33 percent of children under five. Similarly, in Cambodia, poverty continues to affect a high proportion of rural families, with two-thirds of the country's 1.6 million rural households facing seasonal food shortages.

Philippines bans pork, products from ASF-hit Laos The Manila Times Online 27th Jun 2019
The Department of Agriculture (DA) has ordered a temporary ban on the importation of pork and its products from Laos following reports that the Southeast Asian country tested positive for the presence of African Swine Fever (ASF). Based on Memorandum Order 15 issued on June 21 signed by Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, the Philippines will not allow the entry of domestic and wild pigs and their products, including pork meat and semen from Laos. With the ban in place, the DA suspended the processing and evaluation of applications for and the issuance of sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances covering the affected commodities. All meat products brought in by the arriving passengers from the stated countries will also be confiscated, the DA said.

Health & Life Sciences

MoH Reports Dengue Death Toll, Infection Are Rising KPL - Lao News Agency 24th Jul 2019
Dengue death tolls and infection cases are rising in number with over 15,500 people falling sick with and 35 dying of the disease since Dec 29, 2018, has said a report of Ministry of Health. The number of dengue fatalities in Savannakhet is higher than those reported in other provinces. Eleven people have reportedly died of dengue in Savannakhet, seven in Vientiane Capital, five in Champassak, three in Saravan, four in Khammuan, two in Borikhamxay and one in Xayaboury.

World Population Day Celebrated, Tremendous Progress Recognised KPL - Lao News Agency 11th Jul 2019
Maternal Deaths dropped more than five times, now there are almost 2,500 midwives and most of them are deployed in rural and hard-to-reach areas of Laos - tremendous progress we have seen since the 1st International Conference on Population and Development.

Laos Issues Nationwide Dengue Warning Laotian Times 10th Jul 2019
The Lao Ministry of Health has issued a nationwide warning amid increasing dengue fever incidence across the country. As of July 9, more than 11,000 people have been diagnosed with dengue fever, and 27 have died. About a week ago, the number of patients stood at 10,778, while the death toll was 25. The overflow of patients was so large that many hospitals in Vientiane have converted corridors and meeting rooms into wards. Some facilities have even requested additional beds from the public.

Dengue Kills 25, Infects Over 10,000 BruDirect 6th Jul 2019
Over 10,700 people across the country have been infected with dengue virus, with Champassak hard hit with 2,416 infection cases and five deaths reported since the beginning of January, according to the Ministry of Health. The number of dengue death toll in Savannakhet is higher than those reported in other provinces.

International Conference Held On Health Strategy Transformation Lao PDR News Gazette 3rd Jul 2019
The Fondation Pierre Fabre in cooperation with the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie(AUF) held its International Observatory Conference on Jul 1 to discuss the transformation of health strategies for the benefit of all, through the strengthening of digital health skills and the implementation of efficient health information systems (HIS).

Resistant malaria spreading in South East Asia BBC News 23rd Jul 2019
Malaria parasites resistant to key drugs have spread rapidly in South East Asia, researchers from the UK and Thailand say. The parasites have moved from Cambodia to Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, where half of patients are not being cured by first-choice drugs. Researchers say the findings raise the "terrifying prospect" drug-resistance could spread to Africa. However, experts said the implications may not be as severe as first thought. What is happening? Malaria is treated with a combination of two drugs - artemisinin and piperaquine. The drug combo was introduced in Cambodia in 2008. But by 2013, the first cases of the parasite mutating and developing resistance to both drugs were detected, in western parts of the country. The latest study, published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases, analysed blood samples from patients across South East Asia.

Health authorities redoubling efforts to limit dengue fever outbreak Vientiane Times 8th Jul 2019
Health officials and medical staff at hospitals across the country, including the capital, are endeavouring to combat the increasing number of dengue fever cases this year. Many hospitals in the capital have converted corridors and meeting rooms into wards due to a lack of space to treat patients, and some facilities have even requested additional beds from the public to handle the growing number of dengue patients. As of July 3, a total of 10,778 people had been diagnosed with dengue fever nationwide, and 25 have died, according to a report by the Ministry of Health’s Communicable Disease Control Department. Deputy Director General of Setthathirath Hospital, Dr Khamla Choumlivong told Lao media yesterday health authorities acknowledged that the dengue fever outbreak is higher this year and increased numbers of patients were receiving treatment for the potentially fatal virus. “Health authorities have admitted their concerns about the higher rate of dengue fever cases this year and Laos still faces challenges in preventing the disease,” she said. The mosquitoes responsible for transmission are the Aedesaegypti and Aedesalbopictus species. The Ministry of Health, under orders of Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, recently called on health officials and local authorities across the country to closely monitor their areas in the fight against dengue, hoping to reduce the number of cases, according to the National Centre for Laboratory and Epidemiology.

Food fortification must improve Lao people’s health Vientiane Times 4th Jul 2019
The level of chronic malnutrition in Laos has decreased from 44 percent in 2012 to 33 percent in 2017. However, the country still has the highest rate of malnutrition in the South East Asian region making the population’s intake of quality nutrients a challenge. This was the key message delivered at a technical workshop on reviewing the current status of food fortification and focusing on the initial steps of setting standards for food fortification in Laos. The National Nutrition Committee Secretariat organised a technical workshop in Vientiane this week, with technical assistance from the World Food Programme (WFP) and input of experts from the German chemical company  BASF. The workshop was chaired by the Deputy Minister of Health, Associate Professor Dr Phouthone Muongpak, with the cochair WFP Deputy Country Director and Representative of the United Nations World Food Programme Mr Hakan Tongul. Associate Professor Dr Phouthone said, “The government has successfully implemented mandatory saltiodisation to prevent Iodine Deficiency Disorders. The opportunity to fortify other foods such as rice, oil, noodles, soy sauce or dairy products must be seized and will require support from all stakeholders.” “The workshop is an important milestone, because it is the first step in setting standards for food fortification in Laos,” he added. Food fortification is one of the key priorities of the National Nutrition Strategy to 2025 and Plan of Action 2016-2020.

ICT

Lao delegates push for regional media cooperation Vientiane Times 24th Jul 2019
Lao delegates have voiced their support for greater regional media cooperation towards a better future, while attending the Asean-China High Level Conference on Media Cooperation in Jakarta, Indonesia. Speaking at the conference on Tuesday, Deputy Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr Savankhone Razmountry, said Laos strongly supports and promotes the development of the media so that it gradually becomes more proficient.

Laos Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband Market Growth Analysis Financial Planning 24 19th Jul 2019
The telecom sector in Laos still has numerous issues to address. For a number of years, the rate of regulatory reform has been well behind wider industry development. However, Laos has started to make significant progress in strengthening of its telecommunications infrastructure. As a result, it attracted more foreign investment into the sector.

Laos Moves to Register Private Online News Sites in a Bid to Control ‘Fake News’ Radio Free Asia 19th Jul 2019
Government authorities in Laos have ordered the administrators of news outlets carried on Facebook and other social media platforms to register their accounts or face jail time and fines, sources in the communist Southeast Asian country say. The move comes as Lao residents have increasingly abandoned state-controlled news sources in recent years and are turning more to the internet and social media to get news not previously screened by the communist government’s censors.

Ministry orders registration of social media news platforms Vientiane Times 15th Jul 2019
Authorities have told the administrators of social media news platforms to register their accounts or pages, or they could face legal action. The warning comes after many unregistered digital news platforms have circulated fake news and disinformation on social media, which seriously misinformed people and on several occasions caused public panic. The Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism last week issued an announcement requiring administrators to register their accounts with the ministry’s Media Department.

Huawei to Boost Presence in Laos amid US Sanctions Laotian Times 3rd Jul 2019
Huawei has unveiled its latest solutions in Laos such as 5G, smart cities, smart government, and Huawei Cloud in a move that would help the Chinese telecom giant overcome a United States-led sanction. Speaking at the Laos ICT Expo 2019, which was held last week in Vientiane, Huawei Laos CEO Mark Wong said that the company’s latest technology solutions, such as 5G and smart cities, were in line with Laos’ digital transformation vision and would support the nation to build a complete digital transformation ecosystem.

Embrace 5G cloud future: Huawei’s debut at Lao expo The Phnom Penh Post 1st Jul 2019
Laos' Ministry of Post and Telecommunications (MPT) joined hands with Huawei, LTC and other operators to organise the Laos ICT Expo 2019 which was held last week in Vientiane. Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith attended and presided over the opening ceremony of the exhibition. The exhibition aims to show how to nurture the 5G ecosystem and how to use 5G to help operators develop their business and national economic development under the leadership of Digital Laos.

Infrastructure

Laos seeks South Korea support for regional connectivity projects Phnom Penh Post 19th Jul 2019
Sharing borders with five Asean member states, Laos is seeking to facilitate the connectivity of infrastructure across the region by strengthening cooperation with South Korea. “There have been already a number of projects supported by the Korean government and implemented by Korean private companies in the past that contributed to the Asean connectivity in Laos,” Lao Minister of Public Works and Transport Bounchanh Sinthavong said in a recent interview with the Korea Herald.

Heading south at speed: The China–Laos railway The Thaiger 15th Jul 2019
Construction on the China–Laos railway began in December 2016 and involves six Chinese contractors from subsidiaries of the state-owned China Railway Group. Contractors now report that it’s half-finished and is on schedule to be completed by December 2021. The 414 kilometre railway line stretches from Boten, on Laos’ northern border with China, to Vientiane, the Laos capital. It will then connect with Thailand to Malaysia and Singapore as part of a pan-Asia railway that will eventually north-south from Kunming in Yunnan province all the way to Singapore.

Laos seeks Korea’s support for regional connectivity projects The Korea Herald 15th Jul 2019
Sharing borders with five member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Laos is seeking to facilitate the connectivity of infrastructure across the region by strengthening cooperation with South Korea. Over the last few decades, the Laotian government has committed to developing policies that capture the potential economic benefits of infrastructure investment that transforms regional connectivity. Currently, the Korean government is taking part in projects to protect the Mekong river bank in Vientiane and Champasack. Korea is also participating in a feasibility study of the ASEAN Highway, a railway linking Laos and Vietnam, as part of ASEAN Connectivity 2025, a broader initiative adopted by leaders of ASEAN.

Can the China–Laos railway keep on track? East Asia Forum 12th Jul 2019
Of all the railway projects that Chinese companies are constructing in Southeast Asia, the China–Laos railway has proceeded most rapidly. Construction began in December 2016 and swung into full gear by mid-2017, involving six Chinese contractors from subsidiaries of the state-owned China Railway Group. Early this year, it was reported to be half-finished and is on schedule to be completed by December 2021. The 414-kilometre railway line stretches from Boten, on Laos’ northern border with China, to Vientiane. It is slated to connect with Thailand to the south as part of a pan-Asia railway that will run from Kunming in Yunnan province to Singapore.

Northern Lao province eyes development in conjunction with China-Laos railway Xinhua 10th Jul 2019
Oudomxay, a province in northern Laos some 400 km north of Lao capital Vientiane, is looking to improve its infrastructure to accommodate the new China-Laos railway and boost development. Oudomxay Provincial Governor Khamphan Pheuyyavong said the under-construction railway will run for 126.6 km through the province, so officials are looking at ways to capitalize on this by bolstering business alongside the railway, Local Daily Vientiane Times reported on Wednesday.

Lao gov't to get prepared to benefit from China-Laos railway Xinhua 8th Jul 2019
The Lao government has acknowledged that it needs to be well prepared to provide transit services in an effort to benefit from the Laos-China railway. The government is encouraging private enterprises to develop infrastructure and other facilities along the rail route, local daily Vientiane Times on Monday, quoting Lao Minister of Planning and Investment Souphan Keomixay as saying.

China, Laos to boost cooperation on road, bridge construction Xinhua 4th Jul 2019
China and Laos are set to boost cooperation and technical assistance in the construction of roads and bridges to facilitate the faster and safer implementation of high quality projects. Representatives of Lao and Chinese construction companies and Lao government officials gathered in Lao capital Vientiane on Wednesday to exchange experiences and get feedback on developments in new construction techniques, technology and materials.

New, shorter road to Luang Prabang now open Bangkok Post 1st Jul 2019
A new sealed road from the Thai border to the Lao province of Luang Prabang has opened to traffic, reducing travel time from Nan province to Luang Prabang from nine to five hours...It is expected to draw 10-20% more visitors to the two Thai and Lao provinces, especially from China, Vietnam and Europe, he said.

Travel & Tourism

Thailand's First Bullet Train to Include Laos as Destination Laotian Times 8th Jul 2019
Thailand is preparing to launch the country’s first bullet train that will run between Bangkok and Beijing, China, with Laos as one of the intermediate stations. The “Trans-ASEAN Line” will cover 3,193 kilometers at the cost of about THB 2.07 trillion (USD 67.2 billion) and link Thailand’s Bang Sue with Chiang Mai in the North, Laos in the Northeast, Cambodia in the East and Malaysia in the South.

Laos, Thailand Sign New Cross-border Road and Rail Deal Laotian Times 1st Jul 2019
Laos and Thailand have signed an agreement to extend road and rail connections between the two countries worth more than THB 3 billion (USD 98.2 million). Under the agreement, the two countries plan to improve the R11 road linking the Phudu border checkpoint in Uttaradit province in Northern Thailand with the Lao capital, Vientiane.

Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam intensify tourism connectivity The Cambodia Daily 16th Jul 2019
The building of a plan on tourism development at the Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam Development Triangle Area was the main topic of a seminar in Pleiku city, the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai, on July 15. The plan targets sustainable tourism development and tourism connectivity between the three countries, thus helping to spur socio-economic development in the area.

The Laos eVisa is Now Available The Chestnut Post 9th Jul 2019
​After a long development period, an electronic visa system for Laos has finally been introduced in a move to facilitate the visa application process for eligible foreign nationals. Citizens of 180 eligible countries are now able to apply online for a Laos eVisa for tourism purposes before traveling to the country.​ The Laos eVisa has been launched on July 9, 2019 and has eliminated the need to go to an embassy or consulate to apply for a travel authorization to visit Laos, or the need to wait in long queues to fill out a Laos visa on arrival application at the border. The Laos online visa is a single-entry visa which grants its holder a stay of up to 30 consecutive days in Laos for tourism purposes, and can be obtained through a simple online application form. 

Laos works to develop tourism vietnamplus.vn 8th Jul 2019
The Lao government has devised a policy to promote tourism, considering the industry a priority in the country’s national economic development plan, said Lao Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism Bosengkham Vongdala. Tourism is the country second-highest currency earner after mining, according to Lao Phatthana, a newspaper of the Lao News Agency (KPL). To realise the target, the country will continue to develop and improve tourism sites in each province, as well as enhance tourism promotion programmes. Laos has called for investment from foreign and domestic firms in infrastructure, especially roads leading to tourist destinations.