Posts tagged ‘communist Laos’

February 6, 2014

Communist Laos slow to pass legal reforms

Communist Laos takes nearly four decades to pass 100 laws

February 6, 2014  4:39 pm

Vientiane – Laos has received 3.9 million dollars from foreign donors to expand the rule of law in the communist country, where about 100 laws have been passed since 1975, media reports said Thursday.

The Ministry of Justice launched a three-year project with financial assistance from the European Union, the United Nations, France and the United States to hasten its “journey in becoming a rule of law state,” the state-run Vientiane Times reported.
“Since national liberation in 1975, the National Assembly has passed more than 100 laws, which is seen as insufficient to govern the state and society and to respond to the nation’s development needs,” the government mouthpiece said.
Communist Laos, a land-locked country of 6 million people, has been ruled by the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party since 1975.
It is the only political party permitted to contest general elections for the National Assembly, the legislative body.
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VIENTIANE – Laos has received US$3.9 million from foreign donors to expand the rule of law in the communist country, where only about 100 legislative laws have been passed since 1975, media reports said.

The Ministry of Justice launched a three-year project with financial assistance from the European Union, the United Nations, France and the United States to hasten its “journey in becoming a rule of law state,” the state-run <i>Vientiane Times</i> reported.

“Since national liberation in 1975, the National Assembly has passed no more than 100 laws, which is seen as insufficient to govern the state and society and to respond to the nation’s development needs,” the government mouthpiece said.

Communist Laos, a land-locked country of 6 million people, has been ruled by the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party since 1975.

It is the only political party permitted to contest general elections for the National Assembly, the legislative body.

A Country Study: Laos

Library of Congress Call Number DS555.3 .L34 1995

August 19, 2013

Mandarin asserting its dominance in north Laos

Mandarin asserting its dominance in north Laos

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnist/mandarin-asserting-its-dominance-in-north-laos-1.340040

By Farish A. Noor

19 August 2013| last updated at 11:22PM

BEIJING CALLING: The hegemony of English is declining fast in northern Southeast Asia as China ups its investments in region

I AM currently working on a documentary research project about borders and frontier-zones across Asia, and have been startled by some of my findings thus far. On a research trip along the Laos-China border recently, I was struck by the number of Mandarin schools that have popped up in the small towns and villages that lead to the border, and the number of Laotian families that have chosen to send their children there to study Mandarin.

The reason for this shift in attitudes is simple enough: China is the biggest investor in Laos at present, and the might of China’s economy is keenly felt among the small population of Laos, who see hundreds of Chinese lorries and boats go down the highways and the Mekong river.

Entire communities have sprung up as a result, and along the border, new Special Economic Zones have emerged where Chinese businessmen and tourists flock by the tens of thousands all the time.

So strong is China’s presence, the most popular language now, apart from Lao, is Mandarin, and increasingly, poor Laotians are learning the language so that they can get jobs with Chinese firms that are investing in their country.

Nobody could have anticipated this more than a decade ago, when it was assumed that Communist China would keep its capital within its borders. But China’s economic liberalization has occasioned the rise of a new form of soft power politics, and this translates as expanding Chinese cultural and economic influence, via language.

I visited a small Mandarin school by the border and noted that even the textbooks came from China, and Laotian children now learn about Chinese history and geography. In time, they may know more about China than any other Southeast Asian child today. In the process of learning more about China, they are also forgetting what their parents and grandparents had learned about Europe and North America.

This development also has another twist to it that will bear interesting results in the long run: the demise of English as the language of choice, and with that, the demise of Western political, economic and cultural influence in Southeast Asia, too.

But this is, in a sense, inevitable — for Western investment in Laos pales in comparison with the Chinese presence — and there is no point in learning English or French if American, French and British companies are not investing heavily there. During my trip, I was only able to speak French with one elderly Laotian gentleman who was born during the French colonial era. As he put it: “This is the new world. And now everyone looks to China and wants to learn Mandarin instead.”

The same pattern of economic development and cultural influence can be seen in Myanmar and northern Thailand, where there is the same influx of Chinese capital and with that, Chinese migration and settlement, too. There, too, I found that locals were keen to learn Mandarin, and to get their kids into Mandarin schools.

It seems a far cry from the 1960s-1980s when Coca Cola and Hollywood were the popular symbols of progress and the good life. Now, the currency that is most commonly used is the yuan, and the northerners of these countries look further north towards a more prosperous future.

All of this signals the eventual eclipse of English as the global means of communication, and perhaps also the waning influence of North America and Western Europe in the affairs of Asia.

The experiment has just begun, but already the effects are palpable and in some respects irreversible: as Laotian kids learn Mandarin, their world view, value system, means of cognition and knowledge, are all bound to be shaped by the perspective of the Mandarin tongue.

Is English faced with the threat of extinction then? Perhaps not immediately, but its influence and its hegemonic power is certainly declining fast. The powers of the Western world may still wish to preach the values of the West and to predicate their foreign policy upon Western notions of justice, liberalism and equality; but what is happening now in parts of Southeast Asia may well render all of that futile.

The Western world view will simply become a parochial one if Asia opts to looks at the world anew, via a different linguistic lens that reconstructs reality through the prism of Mandarin instead.

This is a development worth watching closely, for its impact will be lasting and will re-shape the cultural and political contours of Asia for good.

July 12, 2012

Hillary Clinton pays historic visit to communist Laos

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source http://www.mercurynews.com/nation-world/ci_21051906

By Bradley Klapper

Associated Press

Posted:   07/11/2012 09:22:36 AM PDT
Updated:   07/11/2012 09:22:37 AM PDT

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton watches a map which displays locations of bombing sites during Vietnam War, on her tour at the Cooperative Orthotic Prosthetic Enterprise Center (COPE), in Vientiane, Laos, Wednesday, July 11, 2012. COPE provides free prosthetics to those who need them including the victims of blasts of unexploded Vietnam War era ordnance, (AP Photo/Brendon Smialowski, Pool) ( Brendan Smialowski )

VIENTIANE, Laos — 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 Vietnam 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.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton place flowers at a statue after during a tour of the Ho Phra Keo Temple, in Vientiane, Laos, Wednesday, July 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Brendon Smialowski, Pool) ( Brendan Smialowski )

“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.

July 25, 2011

Communist Laos fails to hike minimum wage amid rising inflation

 

View Original Source:  http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/business/news/article_1652503.php/Communist-Laos-fails-to-hike-minimum-wage-amid-rising-inflation

Jul 22, 2011, 5:17 GMT

 

Vientiane – Laos failed to announce a new minimum wage rate this week for the communist country, where the inflation rate is among the highest in South-East Asia, state media reported Friday.

A meeting this week of the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Lao Federation of Trade Unions, and the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare failed to reach agreement on the new wage rate, the Vientiane Times reported.

Lao trade unions have been pushing to hike the minimum wage to more than 600,000 kip (75 dollars) per month from the current rate of 348,000 kip (43.50 dollars).

‘During the three-way discussions, our union proposed the minimum wage increases to 665,000 kip, but the chamber wanted to consult members before making any agreement,’ Trade Union Federation vice president Simoun Ounlasy said.

Simoun said a wage increase was necessary to help labourers cope with inflation. Laos reported a year-on-year inflation rate of 9.76 per cent in May as oil and food prices rise.

The country, ranked among the world’s poorest, has an estimated 400,000 factory labourers, of whom 60 per cent are employed in garment plants located in Vientiane.

Simoun said workers were unable to live on the current minimum wage because most were migrants from the provinces who come to work in the capital, where they need to pay for accommodation, utility bills and food.

‘Our union wants the minimum wage increase to be in place by October this year to help low-income earners survive the rising inflation in Laos,’ he said.

April 28, 2011

PREVIEW: Laos election takes a feminist tack

View Original Source:  http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/asiapacific/features/article_1635735.php/PREVIEW-Laos-election-takes-a-feminist-tack

By Peter Janssen Apr 28, 2011, 10:45 GMT

Vientiane – There is a certain predictability to elections in a one-party state, such as communist Laos.

Some 3.23 million voters in Lao’s People’s Democratic Repulic are to go to the polls Saturday to elect 132 new members of the National Assembly, the country’s legislative body.

There are 190 candidates, 45 of them women, and all from the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party, the communist party that has ruled this country since 1975.

The government has made it clear that it wants a larger share of women in the next National Assembly.

‘The government has said it wants 30 per cent of the National Assembly to be women, so you can be pretty sure that 30 per cent of the elected candidates will be women,’ said one western diplomat.

The assembly, previously little more than a rubber stamp for the communist party dictates, has gained clout in the last five years as a supervisory body of the executive, observers said.

It played a role in the forced resignation of former prime minister Bouasone Bouphavanh in December for ‘family problems.’

Bouasone reportedly had a ‘mia noi,’ or mistress, a common enough practice in Laos but a no-no for politburo members and cabinet ministers.

‘The Lao Women’s Union was very upset about it, and they are powerful within the party and the National Assembly,’ said an official, who asked to remain anonymous.

One can also expect a near 100 per cent turnout on Saturday, despite a noticeable lack of enthusiasm among voters.

‘Lao people don’t get too excited about elections because we only have one party,’ said Air Viravong, a hotel employee. ‘I don’t know any of the candidates but I will vote because it is required.’

The National Assembly pays for transport and posters of all candidates, and prohibits them from criticizing one another during the campaign.

An effort has been made by the party to select candidates who do not hold other government jobs, so they will prioritize their legislative and supervisory duties. This year’s candidates also include more young people and representatives from local authorities.

‘The National Assembly is developing a corporate identity, and some sense of their own importance,’ said one western diplomat.

Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong was a former president of the assembly. One of his initiatives was to open a hotline for people’s complaints.

The hotline proved popular, adding spice to Laos’ usually staid media reports, and provided grist to the mill of many complaints raised in the assembly against government policies, especially dealing with land acquisitions by the state for public or private projects.

The assembly provides one of the few venues to air dissent against the government in Laos, where the last reported protest was in 1999, when three student activists unfurled an anti-government banner in public.

They were arrested and slapped with 15-year jail terms.

Observers attribute the recent lack of dissent to economic growth as well as the harsh justice system. Laos’ economy grew 8 per cent last year, offering plenty of job opportunities at least to those living in Vientiane.

The government has also taken a lax stance on internet use, although only 4 per cent of the 6 million population have access, and interferes less with people’s private lives than it has previously.

‘It is a liberal society if you are not a government opponent,’ said one diplomat. ‘But with the social problems emerging now, drug use, landlessness and a growing gap between the rich and the poor, in the long run things might change.’

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