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Laos: Jewel of the Mekong
December 1, 2013, 9:54 am
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Kuwait is the only country, not just among GCC countries, but throughout the Middle-East region, where Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) has an embassy and ambassadorial representation. And, I am extremely grateful to the Kuwaiti government for their support in ensuring the smooth and successful functioning of our embassy,” said His Excellency Phouangkeo Langsy, the ambassador of Lao People’s Democratic Republic to the State of Kuwait, at the onset of an exclusive interview with The Times.

“I presented my credentials to the Amir of Kuwait His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah in October of this year, and since my arrival at the beginning of August, I have fully enjoyed the nearly four months that I have been heading our embassy here. I find both the country and people to be hospitable, friendly and supportive and I am very happy to be representing my country here. As the only Lao PDR ambassador in the area my responsibility covers the entire region and I am looking forward to presenting my accreditations to other GCC governments in the near future,” said Ambassador Langsy.

Giving a brief glimpse into his long and eventful career that began more than three decades ago, the ambassador stated, “Kuwait is my third posting abroad, and my second as ambassador to a country. My first assignment abroad was in 1999, as Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy to Thailand and Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations Economic and Social commission for Asia and Pacific (UN-ESCAP) at its headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand. In 2002, I was appointed as my country’s ambassador to the Republic of Cuba, where I remained until 2009, with non-resident accreditation to  Nicaragua and Venezuela. From 2010 to mid-2013, I was the Director-General in the Department of Asia, Pacific and Africa at our Foreign Ministry in Vientiane, our capital.

A Master of Linguistics with fluency in several foreign languages, Ambassador Langsy has blended with ease into the multilingual diplomatic community in Kuwait. “Kuwait may be a small country but it is very strong on the diplomatic front,” noted the diplomat. “With more than a hundred foreign embassies and representative offices operating in the country, Kuwaiti diplomacy has made deep inroads around the world. The recently concluded Africa-Arab Summit and the ACD Summit, successfully hosted in Kuwait in October 2012 under the wise initiative and vision of HH the Amir, are examples of this diplomatic power and projection.   

Revealing that Lao PDR and Kuwait established diplomatic relation in July 2008, and since then there have been high-level visits between the two countries, the envoy noted, “Commemorating the establishment of diplomatic ties, the then Prime Minister of Kuwait, H.E. Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, headed a large delegation to Vientiane in August of 2008. And in January 2009, the erstwhile Lao PDR Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh arrived in Kuwait at the invitation of Sheikh Nasser.”

During these two high profile visits a total of 12 agreements and memorandum of understandings (MoU) were signed by the two countries on bilateral cooperation in various fields, including trade, economic and technical cooperation, labor force, agriculture, aviation service, tourism, encouragement and reciprocal protection of investment, avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of tax evasion. A follow-up visit by a Kuwaiti delegation led to the signing of cooperation agreements in civil and aviation matters and in the areas of electricity generation, agriculture and petroleum.

Saying that on the government level Lao PDR was working with the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED) on various projects aimed at developing the infrastructure and economy of the country, the ambassador added: “I hope to further broaden and deepen productive interactions with Kuwait Fund and fully appreciate the fact that the Fund is contributing to development projects not just in Arab countries but throughout the developing world. Kuwait has been a good model in terms of South–South Cooperation. Recently a senior level representative from KFAED was in Vientiane to attend a High Level Round Table on the Lao PDR, together with the others donors countries, on how the Fund could contribute to infrastructure and other developments projects in Laos.

Laos is an ancient country known as Land of Million Elephants with about 6.5 million of population  in an area of 236 800 square kilometers  but a relatively young republic remarked the diplomat, adding: “On 2nd December, 2013, we will be celebrating the 38th anniversary of the founding of Lao PDR, which was established after more than three decades of ruinous war and turmoil in the area. Since that historical victory  day of the genuine  national independence,  the Laotian people and government have dedicated all their efforts and energy on rebuilding and developing the country. Now, the most important thing for us is to ensure peace and stability, inside the country and with all neighboring countries, so that economic and social developments can take place and we can maintain economic growth and provide social equity and prosperity for our people.”

“Lao PDR is deploying all resources and efforts to transform the country from a land-locked to a land-linked nation. Through infrastructure developments aimed at leveraging our common borders with China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar, we hope to make Laos the center of service transit for the Southeast Asia and the potential sub regional connectivity in the future. We also aim to attract foreign enterprises to invest in the growth and development of Laos, through creating a favorable investment climate with strong legal frameworks, and by adopting appropriate technology and skills. Besides investments from other ASEAN countries like Vietnam and Thailand, we currently have significant investments from China, South Korea, Australia , India, Japan and several European countries,” the envoy continued.

“The embassy is promoting Laos as an attractive investment and tourism destination to help the country achieve its Millennium Development Goals (MDG) by 2015 and to transition from a Least Developed Country (LDC) status by 2020. I have held meetings with the Kuwaiti Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) to explore ways and means of implementing the commercial MoUs signed between our two countries. In the near future, we plan to have a Laotian business delegation visit Kuwait to interact with their counterparts in this country. And we hope to invite a delegation from KCCI to visit Lao PDR,” revealed the envoy.

Inviting Kuwaiti enterprises and individuals to visit Laos and explore the immense potential for starting profitable ventures in various sectors, including in hydro-power energy, agriculture, forestry, tourism and hospitality, as well as in mining gold, copper and other minerals, the ambassador added: “The economy of Lao PDR has over the last five years shown a consistent GDP growth of over 7.5 percent. While different areas of the economy continue to display steady growth, the tourism sector has demonstrated exceptional prowess, with over 3.3 million visitors arriving in the country so far this year and last May the Lao PDR was awarded as one of the best tourist destination in the World  by European Council on Tourism and Trade.

Laos is also rich in hydro-power due to the abundance of the tributaries of Mekong River  and we aim to become a regional exporter of hydro-power by expanding our current energy exports to Thailand, and to others neighboring countries as well  in the future. Laos is also involved  in the garment export business, with our products finding markets in Europe and elsewhere.”

“On the regional level Lao PDR remains an integral part of ASEAN and, since joining the association in 1997, we have worked to uphold its values and achieve the organization’s goals through accelerating economic growth, social progress and cultural development of the region, as well as by promoting regional peace and stability while moving forward to the establishment of ASEAN Community within 2015. Laos was also represented by its Vice  Foreign Minister at the recent meeting of foreign ministers of ASEAN and GCC, which was held in Manama, Bahrain.

During the meeting, common interests and concerns were discussed with the aim of strengthening relations between the two regions through economic, cultural and scientific partnerships and by deepening and institutionalizing these relations.

In conclusion Ambassador Langsy said, “I would like to express my gratitude to His Highness the Amir, His Highness the Crown Prince,  His Highness the Prime Minister and His Excellency the Deputy Prime Minister and  Foreign Minister for their support to the Lao PDR and to me personally since I arrived here. I would also like to wish the government and people of Kuwait lasting  peace and everlasting  prosperity.”

-Staff Report

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