Date: February 7th, 2013
Subject: Laos, Hmong Veterans Burial Honors Bill Introduced in U.S. Senate
As we say, people, they don't live only on rices, but freedom is very important element for human being to live in dignity and in equality
Date: February 7th, 2013
Subject: Laos, Hmong Veterans Burial Honors Bill Introduced in U.S. Senate
Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/757862.shtml
Global Times | 2013-1-24 0:33:02
By Ken Quimbach
A friend living in Vientiane recently complained of incessant noise next to her house where a Chinese gang was busy constructing a new feeder road.
None of the residents had been consulted. The residents are afraid that asphalt will bring speed and accidents. To the slower paced Laotians, the Chinese are unwelcome. “Why can’t Laotians do that work? Who asked if we wanted this road?” one onlooker asked. Good questions.
Across Laos, Chinese laborers are building huge malls, dams, factories, golf courses and airports, taking jobs that could easily done by Laotians. Tiny Laos with its population of over 6 million is being made to look increasingly like China. Many Chinese projects dispossess Laotians of their land. The Laotians need the work.
There is no question that the Chinese have always been in Laos, but it is the massive increase in numbers, influence and visibility that are causing concern.
A few weeks ago, the New York Times drew approbation over a story they did on what was to be the joint China-Laos railway project. Hidden in the story is the threat that Laotians are increasingly naming; colonization by stealth, and with that, a commodification of Lao culture.
In the story, the Chinese hotel owner was waiting for the floods of his countrymen into Laos to complete the circle of purchase and profit. The Laotians are increasingly left with nowhere to go.
Hidden below the grandiose plans are the subtle corrosion of what it means to be Laotian. China, which guards its own heritage and ancestry, is seemingly happy to destroy that belonging to others.
The traditional Lao skirts are being replaced by cheap mass-produced synthetic skirts made by machines in China, marginalizing both the weavers – whose work makes significant contributions to village incomes – and the fabric’s cultural meaning.
Some of Vientiane’s best loved colonial buildings are slated for demolition. The National Museum is, perhaps ironically, to be replaced by a 20-story five-star hotel.
Chinese projects are operated under a Godfather model. There is no competitive bidding or tendering process. Instead, concessions are given by political insiders for various favors.
The Yunnan-derived Northern Plan perhaps best sums up the insensitivity to non-Chinese culture. The famously successful but intimate World Heritage city of Luang Prabang has become a tourist megalopolis of 30 square kilometers; ethnic minorities can be shown off in what could be described as human zoos, to be gawped at and photographed by Chinese tourists.
But more ominously, it reveals how easily and cheaply Laos can be bought. Laos has been described as a vassal state, and the Northern Plan makes it obvious that this descriptor is apt.
Recently, the Global Times published two opinion pieces, which talked about the Chinese presence in Laos. Their pieces presented the middle class critique. They talked about roads, infrastructure; all the stuff of the urban elite.
Laotians are still largely poor and rural. They do not have access to health services, or decent education, much less Range Rovers for comfortable cross border travel.
Chinese road projects provide lessons in how not to proceed. A recent trip up the Nam Ou River showed how appallingly managed some Chinese infrastructure is.
The road built to maintain the cascade of Chinese hydropower dams had already caused massive landslips and loss of river bank farmlands. When I asked the boatmen who ply the river and upon whose skills thousands of people, including a burgeoning tourist industry, depend, if they had been consulted or compensated, they all said no. A small group of highly skilled men will become occupationally extinct.
The signs of urban economic growth have given the government of Laos legitimacy, while the Chinese have gradually inched out the traditional protectors, the Vietnamese.
The recent abduction of Laos’ national Sombath Somphone underscored that the transfer of telecommunications from Thai to Chinese oversight has had consequences for Laotian civil society. Phones and the Internet are under surveillance.
But more seriously, Chinese incursions into Laos’ economics, commerce planning, and resource management are now so pervasive and entrenched, that they can never be reversed, even if a more dignified government comes into power.
LOWELL — Nicholas Sounphale still misses his native country, Laos.
“The country is so beautiful, so lovely,” Sounphale said.
The Littleton resident was one of about 60 people from near and far who attended the Eighth Anniversary Celebration of the Lao Heritage and Freedom Flag at City Hall on Saturday. Posters set up in front of the building bore photos of ancient Laotian treasures, including glistening Buddhist temples, intricately woven baskets of various shapes and sizes, gold statues and finely carved wooden musical instruments and textile-making utensils.
Sounphale, a now 50-year-old research and development technician who emigrated here in 1980, said despite his love for Laos, he was not in favor of the Communist government that took over in 1975.
The event celebrated the contributions of Laotians to the Lowell area while offering speakers a chance to advocate for peaceful change back home to re-install a democratic form of government. It was emceed by Linkham Xaylitdet of The Laotian Community of Lowell. It drew local officials like Mayor Patrick Murphy and City Councilors Rita Mercier and Vesna Nuon, along with native Laotians from as far as Germany.
“The Laotian community of Lowell stands in solidarity with their brothers and sisters in Laos,” Murphy said.
Also in attendance to show their support were several Vietnamese immigrants who have served with the US Army Veterans Support Command and several Bangladeshi American officials.
“Thanks to the warm open arms and generous helping hands of the U.S. Government and the American people, we the Laotian Americans are who we are today: independent, free and law-abiding contributive citizens,” said United Lao Political Organization President Khamthene Chinyavong, expressing his gratitude to state officials for allowing them to uphold the Lao National Flag and the Lao Freedom and Heritage Flag so they can share their celebration with the city and the community.
The Lao Heritage and Freedom Flag features three white elephant heads on a red background.
The background represents the courage of Laotian kings and commoners who, despite hailing from 68 ethnic groups, managed to build a unified nation that they defended and protected from invaders for seven centuries, according to Bounthone Chanthalavong-Wiese, president of Alliance for Democracy in Laos.
The white elephant heads, which peer out from a white nine-level parasol, represent the pure beauty of both the land and culture of Laos, said Chanthalavong-Wiese, adding that the parasol represents the levels a person would need to climb, spiritually speaking, to reach the pinnacle that represents the heavens and Mount Meru, which Laotians tend to revere as the center of the universe.
The flag “illustrates the abundance of elephants in the country, hence ‘Lan Xang:’ the land of a million elephants,” said Chantalavong-Wiese, who said about 14 percent of the Laotian population, or more than 500,000 people, had emigrated to other countries to find safety and freedom after the Communist Party replaced the ruling constitutional monarchy.
Among them were Alygnaphon “Alit” Chanthala, who came to the event from Connecticut. Chanthala, now 34, was a leader of the student democracy movement in Laos in 1999. He said he emigrated here to join his sister after watching Communist officials attempt to arrest protesters at a rally he attended back home. Chanthala said he still misses family members back home, but that he is thankful he was able to start a new life here.
Credited to Khampoua Naovarangsy
Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.rfa.org/english/news/laos/protests-04242012161824.html
Activists demand that a Thai company cease construction of the dam.
More than 60 representatives of communities along the Mekong River gathered in Bangkok Tuesday to protest construction of the controversial Xayaburi Dam on the Mekong River in Laos, despite international criticism.
A Thai construction company signed an agreement last week for pushing ahead with the construction of the dam in northern Laos in defiance of a ruling by the Mekong River Commission (MRC), an inter-governmental body that manages development along the regional artery.
According to the December ruling, the dam project should be delayed until a comprehensive environmental impact study can more properly identify potential risks.
Four Laotians took part in the protests in the Thai capital against Ch. Karnchang, the Thai company tasked with building the U.S. $3.8 billion dam, and a group of Thai banks lending the firm funds to proceed with construction.
The 1,260-megawatt dam would provide 95 percent of its electricity to Thailand.
“[Dam opponents] had blocked the project once before, but now [the Lao government and the Thai company] are restarting it,” one of the Laotians told RFA.
“If the dam is built, the local people will not be able to grow vegetables on the bank of the Mekong anymore. This will destroy their economy.”
Ch. Karnchang revealed last week that construction of the project in Laos would be stepped up from March 15. It said it expects to finish the project in eight years.
A representative of the Chaing Rai Lower Mekong People’s Network said protesters planned to present Ch. Karnchang’s lenders with a letter asking them to stop funding the project.
“When we were here last time, we submitted a letter asking Ch. Karnchang to stop the project, but they wouldn’t,” he said.
“Now we are going to the Siam Commercial Bank to ask the bank and three others to stop lending money to Ch. Karnchang because that money will have a serious impact on the people of the lower Mekong region.”
The other banks that have provided loans to Ch. Karchang include Bangkok Bank, Krung Thai Bank and Kasikorn Bank.
The letter also demands that Ch. Karchang immediately suspend the project because of the potential damage to the Mekong eco-system, fisheries, and food security of the people on both sides of the river.
Another protester said preliminary construction work, such as building of access roads, has been ongoing and affecting riparian communities in the vicinity.
“According to a survey we have conducted, the dam project has already evicted many villagers—our friends in Laos,” he said.
On Wednesday, the core leaders of the represented groups will meet with environmentalists in Nakhor Phranom province to hold another rally and to discuss the impact of the dam on the people and ecology, they said.
In December, Laos’s three downstream neighbors—Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam—pushed for a suspension of construction following a campaign by environmental groups and local civil society and the recommendation by an expert study group for a 10-year moratorium on all mainstream dams, pending additional research on their potentially catastrophic environmental and socioeconomic impact.
The four countries of the MRC agreed in principle that further studies on the Xayaburi Dam’s impact were needed before it could be built.
The MRC is the main body through which the countries negotiate and discuss transboundary effects of management of their shared river and has been important to building consensus in the region.
But experts say that if the Xayaburi moves forward, it could spell the end of the MRC, rendering it irrelevant as an institution.
Pianporn Deetes, coordinator for International Rivers, a California-based water rights group, said the Lao government must look beyond the short-term benefits of the dam.
“This project may generate some money for the government, but in the long-term the government should look at possible serious impacts to the Mekong River and the whole region,” she said.
“In addition, the dam will create a conflict in the region. The government should think about the people and their children, who will have to move to new villages where not much land will be available for them to cultivate.”
Laos, which has planned over 70 dams on its rivers, has said it hopes to become the “battery” of Southeast Asia.
The Mekong River is central to the livelihoods and food security of an estimated 65 million people, studies have shown.
Reported by RFA’s Lao service. Translated by Max Avary. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.
Copyright © 1998-2011 Radio Free Asia. All rights reserved.
By Amelie Bottollier-Depois (AFP)
BOTEN, Laos — The language is Chinese, change is given in yuan and the time is set for Beijing — but the Boten casino is in Laos, not China.
This impoverished country is overrun by investments from the more powerful neighbours that surround it, and is struggling to impose a development strategy.
The casino and garishly-coloured hotels have been developed in Boten over the past five years, against a backdrop of mountains a stone’s throw from the Chinese border.
Laotians are not welcome in this Chinese-controlled new town, which is far from the only example of China’s widespread presence in this landlocked communist country of about six million people.
The Chinese projects are on a large scale — mines, dams, a high-speed rail project, agricultural concessions — and have led to concerns in the small nation.
“The Chinese presence is on everyone’s lips. It’s a subject which Laotians have started to talk about increasingly overtly and more critically,” said a Laos-based foreign expert.
China, and also Vietnam and Thailand, “use Laos as an extension of their territory”, agreed Dominique Van der Borght, of Oxfam Belgium in the Laotian capital Vientiane.
Long reliant on foreign aid, Laos is now the subject of massive foreign investment.
According to official figures, the inflows rose from $51 million in 2001 to $13.6 billion last year, led by the three neighbouring countries with more than $8 billion in 2010.
Those figures can only rise further with the announcement of new projects including the country’s first full-length railway, from Boten to Vientiane.
Construction of the $7 billion line, largely financed by Chinese firms, has not yet begun but plans call for completion by 2015.
At first glance Laos, one of the world’s poorest nations, should welcome this investment.
But Rio Pals, coordinator of INGO Network which groups more than 70 humanitarian organisations in Laos, expressed concern about the government’s ability to properly manage the huge influx of money.
“They don’t have the capacity at this moment to check at the door whether it is quality investment,” she said.
Laos officially grew at 7.9 percent between 2006 and 2010, an expansion largely founded on exploitation of natural resources in the country, which has no industrial output.
“Forests, agricultural land, water and hydropower potential, and mineral resources comprise more than half the country’s total wealth,” says a World Bank report.
Care must be taken “not to saw off the branch on which Laos sits,” says the foreign expert.
Laos is a rural-based society and some experts fear that its people, who depend on the country’s forests and waters for sustenance, are paying for their country’s growth model.
Pals says the country’s goal of advancing from least-developed nation status by 2020 might be affected unless there is a system to ensure good-quality investments that benefit the entire population.
Some analysts, though, say the 2020 target seems reachable. At its five-yearly congress in March the ruling communist party confirmed this aim of escaping the ranks of the world’s 48 poorest countries.
“The bet is not impossible to win” given recent economic growth rates, said Vatthana Pholsena, of Irasec (Research Institute on Contemporary Southeast Asia), in Singapore. “But the question is not only a matter of accumulating wealth. It has to be equitably distributed.”
The World Bank encourages Laos to rely on its resources, but prudently.
“With appropriate macroeconomic and governance priorities, Laos’ natural resource wealth can contribute to rapid, sustainable growth and poverty reduction,” the bank said in its latest report on the country.
The authorities need to find a way to control investments without closing doors to them. They also need to accept that rapid growth will bring unavoidable changes to society.
While some foreign aid workers romanticise traditional mountain village life in northern Laos, rural people themselves want to see change, says Adrian Schuhbeck, of the German development agency.
“Preservation of traditions should be promoted but not at the cost of a reasonable access to modern goods for communities in cold mountain areas,” he said.
“Polyester blankets coming from China can really improve their life although these are not part of their traditional lifestyle.”
Copyright © 2011 AFP. All rights reserved. More »