Archive for March 17th, 2011

March 17, 2011

Laos communists to tussle over China-Vietnam role



Mar 17, 2011

Traffic passing billboards marking the 9th national congress of Lao People's Revolutionary Party at Pattouxay monument square in Vientiane. -- PHOTO: AFP

VIENTIANE – THE ruling communist party of Laos opened its five-yearly congress on Thursday, an event analysts say will see a power struggle between rival pro-Vietnam and China camps.

Red banners are on display throughout the capital Vientiane, where 576 delegates of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP) are gathered until March 21 to choose members of the ruling Politburo, according to state media.

Representing more than 191,700 party members, delegates are to decide who will take the key post of general secretary, currently occupied by 75-year-old Choummaly Sayasone, who is expected to stay in the job.

The congress – described by the Vientiane Times as ‘the most significant event in the country’s political life’ – is the traditional venue for the redistribution of powers.

But in a surprise move in December, Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh quit to be replaced by National Assembly president Thongsing Thammavon.

Analysts say his appointment points to a realignment of power in favour of the party’s pro-Vietnamese factions and those wary of major Chinese investments pouring into the country. — AFP

March 17, 2011

Mekong Damned in Laos


By Luke Hunt

March 17, 2011

Mekong Damned in LaosA huge row is brewing in Laos, something that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has followed the merciless damming of the Mekong River over the past decade.

Vientiane, with the support of Bangkok, has announced it will construct a $3.5 billion dam at Xayaburi in a 1,260 MW hydropower project to be built by Thai construction company CH Karnchang. Thailand will buy 95 percent of the power produced by the project.

As a result, tensions between Laos and Vietnam – normally the closest of regional neighbours – are growing. Hanoi sees its farmers and fishermen in the lower Mekong Delta region as being directly affected by the project. The Cambodians are also unimpressed, environmentalists want the dam scrapped and Australia is being asked to take sides. Even the United States has chipped in with its thoughts.

The Mekong spans six countries with about 60 million people dependent upon the river for their livelihoods in Burma, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. Their needs and environmental warnings have gone largely unheeded as dam construction along the Mekong shifts into high gear.

Since the Manwan Dam in China became the first in operation, in 1993, dozens of dams have been built or are planned for the Mekong River system, mainly in China and along tributaries in Vietnam. The Xayaburi Dam is the first of another 11 proposed hydropower developments on the lower Mekong River.

The World Wildlife Fund and International Rivers want the Xayaburi scrapped, calling it an environmental disaster that will alter the river’s patterns and impact fish catches.

Chinese dams have been blamed for droughts along the Mekong in recent years, with water shortages causing conflict within farming communities, particularly in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

Australia – a chief financial supporter of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) – has backed concerns by Vietnam and Cambodia over the project. Environmental groups are pressing Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd to pressure the MRC into declaring a suspensionon hydropower along the river.

The United States has also entered the fray, calling for a deferral of 10 years on any developments to allow for environmental impact studies to be undertaken.

Yet despite the political pressure from its neighbours, Washington and Canberra, Laos is unlikely to change its tune. There’s too much money at stake in a country that rates among the bottom of the heap on global poverty lists.

The deal was signed off in 2007 and the Laos government argues all the correct boxes regarding legal and environmental issues have been ticked. Thai banks and corporations, meanwhile, are stumping up the money and Vientiane won’t hesitate in trotting out the line popular among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations: At the end of the day, it’s simply none of their business.

Image credit: Jean-Marie Hullot

March 17, 2011

Communist Laos kicks off ninth party congress – The ninth congress has gathered 576 delegates representing 191,700 party members nationwide


March 17, 2011

Mar 17, 2011 (dpa – McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) — VIENTIANE, Laos — Laos on Thursday kicked off a five-day congress of its ruling communist party, which was expected to make changes in the 11-member Politburo.

The congress was opened by Lao People’s Revolutionary Party secretary general Choummaly Sayasone, who is tipped to be re-elected as party chief, according to diplomatic sources.

The new politburo lineup was to be announced Monday, but no new policies were expected to be implemented.

“There will be a number of changes in the Politburo and Central Committee because of retirements or dismissals, and both will in all probability be enlarged,” said a Vientiane-based diplomat, who asked to remain anonymous.

The current prime minister, Thongsing Thannavong, was also expected to retain his seat on the Politburo. His predecessor, Bouasone Bouphavanh, was dismissed in late December for “family problems,” reportedly related to an extramarital affair.

The party, which has ruled Laos since December 1975, held its first congress on March 22, 1955, with 20 delegates representing 300 party members.

The ninth congress has gathered 576 delegates representing 191,700 party members nationwide.

The party is the only one allowed in Laos, one of the world’s few remaining communist countries.

“We have carried out in-depth political brainstorming in connection with the improvements to be made within the party,” Somsavat Lengsavad, head of the party congress secretariat, said in a pre-congress briefing.

The party has tried to improve communications with its “grassroots, district and provincial level” members nationwide to gather input on social and economic issues, he said.

Laos’ economy has grown an average of 7.9 per cent over the past five years and was targeted to expand 8 per cent this year.

Although the party professes Marxism-Leninism as its core ideology, since the mid-1980s, it has opened up the economy to foreign trade and investment.
The party’s long-term economic goal is to shed its least developed country status by 2020.

Lao National Party Congress opens in Vientiane


13:40, March 17, 2011

The National Congress of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party opened on Thursday morning at the headquarters of the Party Central Committee in the capital city of Vientiane.

In a speech to the Congress, Lao Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong said, “The role and influence of Laos is growing on both the regional and international stage.”

Some 576 delegates representing more than 190,000 Party members nationwide gathered to commence the Congress, Laos’ most important political event, at which a new Party leadership will be selected to direct government policy over the next five years.

During the opening session of the Congress, which runs until March 21, Party Secretary General Choummaly Saysasone, who is also President of Laos, gave a political report detailing achievements and challenges over the past five years.

On Thursday afternoon, delegates will examine the amended draft Party Statute.

On Monday, assembled delegates will select a new Party Central Committee, Politburo and Secretary General, the supreme leadership instruments of the single-party communist state.

This week’s Congress is the ninth to take place since the founding of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party in 1955. The Congress has adopted multiple themes, including “enhancing cohesive solidarity of the Lao nation”, “upholding the leadership role of the party”, and “creating a solid basis for lifting our nation from under-development by 2020”.

Source: Xinhua

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