By Ian Timberlake (AFP)
Thongsing Thammavong, new Lao Prime Minister.
HANOI — Laotian Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh, who resigned this week before the end of his term, had vowed to tackle corruption but never had enough support from his communist party, an analyst said Friday.
The 56-year-old Bouasone, who had spent more than four years in office, was replaced on Thursday by Thongsing Thammavong, 66, president of the communist-dominated National Assembly.
Bouasone had told deputies he could no longer perform his duties because of “family problems,” government spokesman Khenthong Nuanthasing told AFP from Laos.
Martin Stuart-Fox, an Australia-based specialist on Laos, said the resignation came as a surprise.
“When appointed, he said he would do something about the rampant corruption that now riddles the Lao regime. But Bouasone always lacked a strong base within the ruling party,” said Stuart-Fox, professor emeritus at the University of Queensland.
“His attempts to build one since the last party congress have obviously failed.”
The five-yearly congress of the ruling Lao People’s Revolutionary Party is expected to be held early next year.
Although Bouasone’s departure surprised outside observers, a source at the Vietnamese embassy in Vientiane said the move had been expected.
“It concerns an internal adjustment destined to prepare for the next congress” expected at the end of March, the source said.
At the time of Bouasone’s appointment in June 2006 a Laos-based diplomat called him “a technocrat who is part of the younger generation of Lao leaders.”
But he was “relatively conservative with little experience of the business world,” a foreign expert said at the time.
Stuart-Fox said Bouasone had been appointed with the support of former president Khamtay Siphandone, “whose client he always was.”
The current president, Choummaly Sayasone, who holds the joint position of party chief and is the country’s most powerful figure, was appointed shortly before Bouasone took office.
Thongsing, the new prime minister, is the country’s sixth since communist forces came to power in 1975, establishing a one-party state.
He is a former mayor of the capital, Vientiane.
“I will improve the way the government works to ensure state activities are timely, transparent, united and harmonious and create favourable conditions for the business sector and for the Lao people to earn a living based on the law,” Thongsing was quoted as saying in Friday’s edition of the state-linked Vientiane Times.
Laos, a rural-based society of about six million, is one of Asia’s poorest nations and is highly reliant on foreign donors.
Bouasone told a conference in Vietnam earlier this year that Laos aims for “no less than” eight percent annual economic growth to 2015.
The country’s economy has been expanding at an annual average of seven percent in recent years, and the government aims “to lift the country from underdevelopment by 2020,” he said.
Donors and non-governmental organisations have cautioned the government over its growth strategy, which features large-scale foreign investment in resource sectors that potentially could have negative effects on socio-economic development.
Chinese economic influence is fast-rising in Laos, which has traditional political ties, as well as business links, with Vietnam.
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By Vaudine England BBC News, Bangkok
24 December 2010 Last updated at 03:56 ET
Laos has announced it has a new prime minister after the surprise resignation of Bouasone Bouphavanh.
Mr Bouasone, 56, who had spent more than four years in office, is replaced by Thongsing Thammavong, of the communist-dominated National Assembly.
Mr Bouasone cited “family issues” but analysts say the reason for his resignation was more likely the product of internal factional re-alignments.
Laos is due to hold a general election early in the new year.
A government spokesman said Mr Bouasone would remain a member of the central committee of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party, which holds a near monopoly on power.
The new prime minister was approved unanimously by the National Assembly’s 101 members.
Political shifts are carefully choreographed in the People’s Democratic Republic of Laos, a large but under-populated, land-locked state bordering Vietnam, China and Thailand.
“Sifting the tea leaves, this is a shift in the internal factional alignments, a shifting in the balance of power within the politburo,” said Damien Kingsbury, chair professor in the School of International and Political Studies at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia.
“It is certainly not transparent, but it happens from time to time,” he told the BBC.
He said there was unlikely to be any major shift in policy as a result of the change in leadership, adding that China’s growing prominence in the country was likely to continue.
Laos is one of Asia’s poorest nations and relies heavily on foreign donors.
China has made huge investments in Laos, building roads, and agricultural and industrial estates across the country, which has long been politically close to Vietnam.
A high-speed railway is planned to run from China to Laos.
Laos former prime minister said earlier this year that the country could achieve at least 8% annual economic growth to 2015, “to lift the country from underdevelopment by 2020″.
Critics say that large foreign investment projects form the the basis of this growth strategy.
Non-governmental organisations have warned against importing foreign labour, and of the potentially negative impact on the environment and socio-economic development.
Monsters and Critics.com
Dec 24, 2010, 12:27 GMT
Vientiane, Laos – Laos’ newly appointed prime minister has come to office with a pledge to improve the way the communist government works, state media reports said Friday.
In a surprise development, the National Assembly on Thursday evening approved the appointment of Thongsing Thammavong to replace former prime minister Bouasone Bouphavanh, who tendered his resignation earlier the same day due to ‘family issues.’
‘I will improve the way the government works to ensure state activities are timely, transparent, united and harmonious and create favorable conditions for the Lao people to earn a living based on the law,’ Thongsing told the assembly, the Vientiane Times reported.
Thongsing was house speaker before taking on the premiership.
National Assembly vice speaker Pany Yathortou has replaced him as house speaker, making her the first woman to hold the post since 1975, when land-locked Laos opted for a communist system.
Thongsing was Minister of Culture from 1983 to 1988 and Vientiane Mayor from 2002 to 2006.
His appointment comes just months before the Lao Communist Party congress to be held some time in March, with a general election to follow in April.
In all previous elections, only the Lao Communist Party had been allowed to field candidates, although independents were permitted.
Thongsing’s appointment was made at the closing day of the National Assembly winter session.
The assembly on Thursday also endorsed a plan to construct a high speed train link between China’s Yunnan province and Vientiane.