Ambassador of Laos H.E. Boun Inthabandith

By Reaven D’Souza
Executive Managing Editor

In a wide ranging media interview last week, Ambassador of Laos H.E. Boun Inthabandith touched on strong and friendly relations between Laos and Kuwait and elaborated on various aspects of bilateral relations between the two countries.

He began by expressing his honor to serve as his country’s ambassador to the peaceful nation of Kuwait. He noted that Laos and Kuwait established diplomatic relations on 14 July 2008, and that this year marks the 15th anniversary of successful diplomatic ties between the two nations. He went on to add that the Laotian Embassy was opened in Kuwait City in 2009, while Kuwait opened its embassy in Vientiane, the capital of Laos in 2012.

Additionally, he said that it was worth pointing out that “our embassy in Kuwait is the only Laotian mission in the Middle East and similarly, the Kuwaiti Embassy in Laos is the only one from the Middle East region.” The ambassador also stressed that the embassy in Kuwait was receiving full support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other government agencies, which further enhanced relations between Laos and Kuwait.

“Since establishment of diplomatic relations, there have been high-level exchange visits between the two countries such as the official visit by the former Prime Minister of Kuwait, Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah and his delegation to Vientiane in August of 2008. And in January 2009, the 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.

“The Kuwait Fund has also provided loans for two projects in Laos, one for the electricity transmission network and the other for an irrigation project, both of which have helped to develop the infrastructure and economy of the country. It is also worth noting that our two countries have a very good relation in diplomatic and political affairs as well as in supporting each other at regional and international fora.”

He also disclosed that a Kuwaiti delegation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs plans to pay an official visit to Vientiane to attend the 4th Political Consultations Meeting. “I believe that the visit will contribute to further deepening the friendly relations and very good cooperation between our two countries. In addition, our two national Chamber of Commerce and Industries will meet in Kuwait in the near future and hold discussions on trade and investment cooperation.”

Expanding on his tenure in Kuwait, the Laotian envoy stated: “Today, 29 November marks one year anniversary of my credential presentation to His Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. I am honored to be my country’s ambassador to this model country of humanitarian leadership in the region and in the world. The people here are very hospitable, friendly and supportive. Since taking charge, I have worked to strengthen the close and cordial relations between our two countries. The government authorities here are very cooperative and friendly to the diplomatic community and I have also enjoyed my mission in this country.”

Turning to bilateral trade, the ambassador indicated that among the various products exported from Laos to Kuwait are paper and other products made from paper, lumber, cassava flour, trees and plants. On the other hand there are no exports from Kuwait to Laos and therefore we are pushing our two sides to discuss more on trade cooperation in the near future. Currently, we have 14 agreements between our two countries which consist of the Trade Agreement and the Agreement on the Avoidance of Double Taxation and Prevention Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Taxes on Income and on Capital.”

Taking time to outline the history of his country and the significance of his country’s national day on 2 December, Ambassador Inthabandith stated: “The official full name of our country is Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) or Laos. Laos is an ancient country, popularly known as ‘Land of Million Elephants’, the country has a population of 7.5 million people and a land area of 236,800 square kilometers. On 2nd December 2023, we will be celebrating the 48th anniversary of the founding of Lao PDR, which was established after more than four decades of ruinous war and turmoil in the area.

“Since that historical victory day of 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 by continuing to pursue its consistent foreign policy of peace, independence, friendship and cooperation, which serves as the fundamental foundation for enhancing cooperation with all nations as well as fulfilling our obligations under the international cooperation frameworks so that our economic and social developments can take place and we can maintain economic growth and provide social equity and prosperity for our people.

“Due to Laos being a landlocked country, we have a policy to move our nation from a ‘land-locked’ into a ‘land-lined’ country to develop the economy and social conditions. Presently, the Laos-China Railway has finished construction and is being used for transportation. In the next few years, the rail network will be connected to Thailand and Vietnam as well, which will transform Laos into a logistic hub in the region. “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. Laos is always ready to welcome Kuwaiti enterprises and individuals and urges them 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.”

Asked about labor agreements between the two countries, the ambassador explained, “We have MoU in the field of exchange of manpower between two countries but so far the MoU has not been implemented due to lack of labor experiences and limit of knowledge especially on languages. However, we are looking at other possibilities and proper skills to discuss with the Kuwait government in the future.

Elaborating on the tourism potential of Laos, the ambassador noted that his country was very welcoming to visitors, especially Kuwaiti visitors. He added, “The population of Laos is only around 7.5 million, but we have 49 ethnicities consisting of over 160 ethnic groups. These ethnic groups are officially designated by the government into three categories based on the geographic areas they occupy: the lowland ethnic groups known as Lao Loum, the midland groups known collectively as the Lao Theung, and the highland groups, Lao Sung.

“The groups have their own languages, customs and traditions and as a result we have festivals practically every month of the year. For example, we have a big festival, the Thatluang Festival in November every year to gather Lao people especially for the lowland group. In December, we will have a Norplejao or Hmong Festival New Year for the highland group, and in January, we will have a Khmu New year or Keh Festival for the midland group.

The famous festival is Lao New Year or Pi Mai Lao is celebrated in the middle of April, before the start of the rainy season. “There are also many interesting places in each province of Laos. Laos has three UNESCO World heritage sites namely: the former royal capital LuangPrabang, the pre-Angkor Wat structure called Wat Phou Champasak Temple, and the Mysterious Plain of Jars in Xieng Khouang Province, that are recognized for their significant archaeological, historical and natural values.

“Additionally, Laos has many cultural, historical, and natural tourist sites such as natural waterfalls, caves, mountains, rivers and forests. The Lao government prioritizes green tourism and local community involvement. We also have many golf courses, rock climbing, trekking, or you could just spend a night or two in a local house of the ethnic people, to familiarize with the way of living of various ethnic groups. Lao food is also distinct in the sense that we eat a lot of vegetables, spicy food and sticky rice that once Kuwaiti people taste they will want to have it again.”

The ambassador noted that in a further boost to tourism to Laos, the Prime Minister of Laos, Sonexay Siphandone announced on 23 November, the opening the ‘Visit Laos Year 2024’, which coincides with the period that Lao PDR will assume the rotating Chairmanship of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). This will be a good opportunity for the country to introduce its unique culture and traditions to international tourists.

Lao PDR aims to attract at least 4.6 million visitors and earn about USD 700 million during the ‘Visit Laos Year 2024’. We will have 79 activities nationwide under the theme of ‘A Paradise of Lao Culture, Nature and History’. Therefore, we would like to invite all foreign visitors around the world to visit our country in order to have a new experience on Lao culture and enjoy the traditional festival, music and dance performances of the country.”

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