Farmers leading the charge out of poverty in Vientiane province

By Meuangkham Noradeth & Kheuysomboun
March 20, 2013

Vietnamese researchers providing technical exchanges with that of Lao farmers.

Vietnamese researchers providing technical exchanges with that of Lao farmers.

The vast majority of villagers in the Longcheng focal group in Xaysomboun district, Vientiane province, are farmers so district officials are encouraging the cultivation of a variety crops and the raising of more livestock.

In Laos, 80 percent of the population work in agricultural production and live in rural areas so encouraging people to work in farming is an important factor in moving the country out of poverty by 2020 as targeted.

The Longcheng focal group comprise six villages that are home to 663 families and 3,675 people, said the Head of the group, Mr Bounpheng Phimphongsavanh.

He said people in this area have depended on farming and animal husbandry for their livelihood for many centuries, so growing more crops is important for boosting incomes and improving living standards.

Last fiscal year, the people of Xaysomboun district were affected by serious flooding, losing their crops and other property.

Provincial officials are working to restore and improve basic infrastructure as they seek to raise the living standards of local people step by step.

Mr Bounpheng said locals understand the government’s policy to develop the country and change lifestyles for the better so they are trying to improve their living standards by growing a wider variety of crops for sale and their own consumption.

But some people are still unaware of modern farming methods, so assistance is essential for them to increase the quality and quantity of crop yields.

Farmers in Xaysomboun district have had success with the commercial cultivation of cassava, oranges, chillies, cabbage, rubber, sweetcorn and rice. District officials are also encouraging more people in the community to become involved in animal husbandry, by raising cattle and poultry for sale and consumption.

Mr Bounpheng said crop yields in the Longcheng focal group are increasing year by year, so district officials are trying to identify markets for the produce.

The state-owned Nayoby Bank and Agriculture Development Bank are providing loans for people in the province to help them expand their farming operations, which is also helping to raise people out of poverty.

The Lao government defines poverty as not having enough food, lacking adequate clothing, not having permanent housing and lacking access to health, education and transportation services.

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Reporters sharpen pencils to combat violence against women

By Bounfaeng Phaymanivong
March 18, 2013

Millions of women and girls globally are subjected to forms of violence such as rape, intimate partner violence, female genital mutilation, early marriage and sexual violence.

This was the message from UNFPA Deputy Representative Ms Rizvina De Alwis when opening a day-long training session in Vientiane on Friday for 28 journalists. The reporters will use the information gained to write articles about the importance of ending violence against women and girls in Laos.

“As a member of the global community, the media plays a key role in stopping, preventing and ending all forms of violence against women and girls by publishing articles relating to solutions, protection and the end of violence,” she said.

Domestic violence is a common occurrence in rural Laos because of poor access to justice for women in ethnic communities, and an absence of data and information on the incidence of violence and on the availability of services for survivors, Ms Alwis said.

She said media personnel can play a part in keeping women and girls safe and sensitively reporting on cases of violence.

“We hope this training session will have a positive impact on the lives of women and girls in Laos and that journalists in Vientiane can learn about various writing styles concerning these sensitive cases,” she said.

One participant, Mr Kongkeo Syviengkham, a reporter from TV Lao, said he hoped to gain a lot of information for use in his articles, and learn how best to spread the message to other community members.

“It’s a great chance for all participants to learn from an experienced trainer who has a lot of experience about how to write sensitive articles. I will use what I learn to improve the quality of my work,” Mr Kongkeo said.

He said violence against women and girls is well hidden in Lao society and people tend to overlook the matter so that it is not discussed. But this means nothing is done to address the problem.

“It is now time for the media to spread information about this issue so that we can encourage people to learn how to protect themselves from violence and harassment. But the media alone cannot bring an end to violence; we need supportive action from all government bodies and UN agencies,” he added.

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day on March 8 was “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women”.

International Women’s Day coincided with a meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women which addressed the issue of violence against women, and took place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

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Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia enhance defense cooperation

March 15, 2013

The Vietnam National Assembly (NA)’s Defence and Security Committee and its Lao and Cambodian counterparts met in HCM City on March 5 to discuss ways of promoting solidarity, friendship and cooperation.

At the meeting, the participants compared notes and share experience in legislation supervision and policy implementation in their respective countries.

They underlined the need to accelerate the implementation of bilateral and multilateral cooperation agreements in order to increase the quality and efficiency of cooperation.

In his speech, NA Vice Chairman Huynh Ngoc Son said the conference provides an opportunity for the delegates to discuss ways of strengthening relations between the three countries’ legislative bodies and peoples.

Other speakers highlighted the traditional relationship between the three nations which have grown considerably through effective and practical activities within the framework of tripartite national defence and security cooperation, especially in training, combating crime and building a common border for peace, friendship and national development.

They also proposed new forms of cooperation such as organizing annual conferences in rotation, exchanging information biannually and sharing operational experiences.

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Laos mulls development of cultural industries

March 15, 2013

Laos needs takes to steps to develop its cultural industries by making use of the unique traditions of the country’s 49 recognised ethnic groups to help drive the country’s development and promote its culture.

The Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, working in collaboration with Unesco, opened the two-day ‘National Consultation on Cultural Industries in Laos and Validation Workshop,’ in Vientiane yesterday.

The objective of the workshop is to analyse the 2010 Baseline Study to forge ahead with Laos’ cultural industry ambitions.

Mr Bouangeun Xaphouvong

Deputy Minister Mr Bouangeun Xaphouvong delivered the opening remarks, before giving the floor over to speakers who presented the initial findings of a study on cultural industries and related documents, aiming to give an overview of the cultural industry. This was followed by a discussion session.

Discussion topics include identifying and adopting what lessons were leant from the initial study report that can be made use of in Laos and identifying priorities in terms of developing cultural industries in the country.

Mr Bouangeun said he believed the workshop would create a proper understanding among participants of the concept of cultural industry so they can make use of the lessons learned in developing the initiative in Laos.

Cultural industry development is a new thing for Laos,” Mr Bouangeun told the workshop participants.

The workshop is being attended by representatives from the ministry, the Unesco regional office based in Bangkok, and some foreign embassies to Laos including France and the Republic of Korea, whose countries are well recognised for their success in developing their cultural industries.

Laos is rich in cultures and traditions, Mr Bouangeun added, and has untapped potential to develop its cultural industries to drive economic growth and contribute to attaining the government’s goal to remove Laos from the list of least developed countries by 2020.

“Having 49 ethnic groups means Laos has 49 different rich cultures. To make culture one of the drivers of national economic development is to make culture become a cultural industry,” he told the workshop.

To reach the government’s target of graduating from least developed country status by 2020 towards gradually becoming an industrial country, Mr Bouangeun reiterated the need to also realise the country’s cultural industry ambitions.

“Developing our cultural industries will make our culture more diverse and modern, which will also enable our culture to contribute to national socio-economic development,” he said.

Head of the Culture Unit in the Unesco Bangkok office, Dr Tim Curtis, agreed that Laos is rich in culture. He stressed that the diverse cultures of the 49 ethnic groups and their traditions is a great asset as it creates unique cultural products and carries economic potential.

“Cultural industries are already proving to be strong assets and helping poverty alleviation in many countries,” he said, adding that it significantly contributes to income generation and job creation and represents over 10 percent of the gross domestic product of several Asian countries.

Director General of the ministry’s Fine Arts Department, Dr Bounthieng Siliphaphan, said it would take time to develop cultural industries in Laos, citing the experience of the Republic of Korea. The country is recognised as being successful in developing its cultural industries, but Korea spent more than ten years in the preparatory stage before achieving its current success.

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Laos, Vietnam strengthen health sector cooperation

By Xayxana Leukai
March 15, 2013

The Ministries of Health of Laos and Vietnam signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in Vientiane yesterday on strengthening their cooperation in the health sector.

The MOU was signed by Lao Health Minister Prof. Dr Eksavang Vongvichit and Vietnam’s Minister of Health Associate Prof. Dr Nguyen Thi Kim Tien.

The MOU aims to further strengthen the existing traditional friendship and cooperation between Laos and Vietnam in the field of health, for the mutual benefit of both countries.

Under the agreement, the two ministries will organise exchange visits by medical professionals as well as health workers and students through study visits and short- and long-term trainings. These will target the development of scientific programmes and research projects, while encouraging business cooperation and investment in health, including the production of pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, and vaccines.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Health will continue to perform clinical activities for Lao citizens under the current agreement and the provisions of the Vietnamese government. The ministry will also continue to send experienced medical professionals to Laos to provide technical and medical professional support for Lao health staff at the request of the Lao Ministry of Health. Both parties recognise the legitimacy of medical and pharmacy practice certificates, medical examinations and treatment licences.

From 2012-2020, medical and pharmaceutical institutions in Vietnam will continue their cooperation and support for Laos in training health workers at all levels.

The two parties will strengthen their cooperation in health promotion, epidemic prevention, technical support for cross-border disease control, food safety, maternal and child health, nutrition, health communication and education. They will also boost international cooperation on HIV/AIDS prevention across their shared border, especially among mobile populations and communities.

The two ministries will continue to implement agreed activities under the Border Health Quarantine Agreement signed between Laos and Vietnam in 2001.

Laos and Vietnam will enhance exchanges of information and cooperation in the fields of training, scientific research and professional exchange in non-communicable disease control, and towards creating a healthy environment in schools.

In addition, the two ministries will strengthen their cooperation in drug testing, drug quality control, counterfeit drugs, food safety and traditional medicine.

The Vietnamese Ministry of Health will provide treatment for senior officials of the Lao Ministry of Health at hospitals in Vietnam.

In addition, Vietnam will receive Lao delegations undertaking study visits, research and experience exchange in the areas of hospital management, hospital financial management, public health management, medical inspection, planning and international cooperation.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Health will also continue to assist with training and technology transfer for medical staff in Laos in the form of bilateral cooperation between the two ministries’ health facilities. This will take place in the fields of surgery, anaethesiology, emergency treatement, obstetrics and gynaecology, paediatrics, drug tests, dentistry and other professional fields.

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Laos and DPRK further cooperation on Information and Communication Technologies

March 14, 2013

A bilateral meeting between the Ministry of Science and Technology and the General Bureau of Software Industry of the DPRK was held in Vientiane on 13 March. The meeting was jointly chaired by Mr. Sakone Chaleunvong, Deputy Minister of Science and Technology, and Mr. Jong Song Chan, Deputy Director General of the General Bureau of Software Industry of the DPRK.

During the meeting, the sides informed each other on their respective country’s social-economic development and other issues of mutual concern, especially on the information and communication technologies cooperation, the achievement of the ministry of science and technology on its website building, and the producing of computer programs to service for scientific research.

On this occasion, the sides also jointly signed a cooperation agreement on information and communication technologies service, which included the experience exchange on software development and the information and experience exchange on standard building for software.

They also agreed to exchange their experiences on law building in the field of information and technology, to promote the training course on information and communication technologies, and to exchange the visit between their high ranking officials.

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Lao President sends congratulations to PRC President Xi Jinping

March 14, 2013

Xi Jinping is elected president of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and chairman of the Central Military Commission of the PRC at the fourth plenary meeting of the first session of the 12th National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing, capital of China, March 14, 2013. (Xinhua)

President of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic Choummaly Sayasone has sent a message to His Excellency Mr. Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China.

“On the occasion of Your election as President of the People’s Republic of China from the 12th National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China, on behalf of the Government and People of Laos and on my own behalf, I would like to extend to Your Excellency, my best wishes and congratulations.

“The election of Your Excellency to the highest position is a demonstration of trust and highly valued of the Party, Government and people of China for your great contribution to the cause of renovation and open door to the world based on the directions laid by the Communist Party of China.

“I am confident that under the clear sighted leadership of the Communist Party Of China led by Your Excellency, the cause of socialism building in China will successfully achieve its target plan in the new century, making the People’s Republic of China go forward to modern socialism and have a high role in the regional and international stages.

“I wish the neighboring traditional relations of friendship and comprehensive strategic partnership of cooperation between the two parties, states and people of Laos and China will be further developed for peace and development in the region and the world.”

Mr. Bounnhang Vorachit, Vice President of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, on the same occasion, also sent greetings to Li Yuanchao, Vice President of the People’s Republic of China.

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CLMV leaders agree on future links

March 13, 2013

(From left-right) Vietnamese PM Nguyen Tan Dung, Cambodian PM Hun Sen, Lao PM Thongsing Thammavong, Vice President of Myanmar Dr Sai Mauk Kham and Asean Secretary General Le Luong Minh shake hands.

(From left-right) Vietnamese PM Nguyen Tan Dung, Cambodian PM Hun Sen, Lao PM Thongsing Thammavong, Vice President of Myanmar Dr Sai Mauk Kham and Asean Secretary General Le Luong Minh shake hands.

The leaders of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV) agreed yesterday in Vientiane on future plans to narrow the development gap between the four newer Asean members and the other six member states.

Various agreements to this effect were reached at the 90-minute 6th Summit of the CLMV country leaders that took place in the Lao capital following the meetings of the CLMV foreign ministers and senior officials that convened yesterday and on Monday.

Lao Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong presided over the summit, attended by his counterparts Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen of Cambodia, Nguyen Tan Dung of Vietnam, Myanmar Vice President Dr Sai Mauk Kham, and Asean Secretary General Le Luong Minh.

The CLMV leaders agreed to facilitate the cross-border movement of goods and people, according to the three-page joint statement of the summit.

They noted the success of Laos and Vietnam in launching the ‘one-stop service’ for customs and immigration inspection at the Dansavan-Lao Bao international border checkpoint and agreed to expand the system to other feasible checkpoints in the CLMV countries.

The aim is to create a network of single-stop inspection connectivity to facilitate trade, investment, tourism and transportation among the four countries, and boost economic development to close the gap with other Asean member states.

The leaders also agreed to deepen coordination to make the best use of the economic corridors across the four countries, namely the north-south economic corridor, east-west economic corridor, and southern economic corridor.

They reiterated their commitment to implement all existing agreements between and among the four countries to promote trade and investment in the CLMV countries and other nation states.

“We reaffirmed our commitment to working closely with each other to enhance our cooperation in accelerating Asean’s integration efforts,” the heads of state and government of the CLMV countries were quoted as saying in the joint statement afterwards.

Regarding agricultural, industry and energy cooperation, they agreed to mutually facilitate investment through relevant investment incentives in numerous important areas.

Focal areas will include the production and processing of agricultural products, mineral exploitation, renewable energy, sustainable hydropower development, oil and gas exploitation, telecommunications infrastructure, and service provision.

They agreed to further enhance their cooperation to exchange information and technologies and to develop joint research in the fields of agriculture, fisheries, forestry, livestock, veterinary science, aquaculture, industry and energy.

The four leaders also pledged to extend their efforts to realise the CLMV multilateral agreements on air services.

In addition, the summit participants recalled the outcome of the first CLMV Tourism Ministers Meeting held in September in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, when the Joint Plan on CLMV Tourism Cooperation for 2013-2015 was endorsed to boost growth in the tourism sector.

In 2012, the four countries registered increasing tourist arrivals totaling 14.8 million people, a growth of 19.7 percent compared to 2011.

To help develop their human resources, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar requested Vietnam to further extend the government scholarships it grants to citizens of the other three countries.

At the same time, they thanked the government of Vietnam for the scholarships provided in previous years.

The CLMV leaders also thanked the government of Japan for providing more than 157 billion kip (US$20 million) to finance various projects. Thanks also went to the Asean Secretariat for continued support in mobilising project funding.

The summit called upon the Asean countries and other development partners to continue their support and assistance to the four countries in realising remaining projects to enable them to narrow the development gap.

The leaders agreed to encourage the participation of the private sector to invest in the implementation of CLMV projects and reviewed the progress made in carrying out past projects.

The summit welcomed Myanmar’s offer to host the next summit in 2014.

The CLMV Summit was in itiated in 2004 to speed up the narrowing of the development gap between the four new and six older Asean member countries and accelerate Asean integration towards realising the Asean Economic Community by 2015.

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First female parachutist in Laos shows women they can fly

By Xayxana Leukai
March 9, 2013

Lieutenant Souphavanh Kilachanh

Thousands of people in Xayaboury province had their eyes turned skywards to focus on an army helicopter, as a team of parachutists jumped out when the door opened.

The crowd had gathered for the opening ceremony of the Elephant Festival last month, and feasted their eyes on the daring actions of the team of army experts.

The team was led by Lieutenant Souphavanh Kilachanh, 36, and their exploits earned the congratulations on the onlookers after they landed smoothly and safely. The jump brought Souphavanh’s tally to more than the 1,000 since she joined the army in 1995.

She was the first woman in the whole of Laos to brave the jump down from a helicopter when she was employed with Battalion 702 in Xieng Khuang province 18 years ago.

“Some men and women were afraid to jump from such a height,” she recalls, adding that for her it was different as she really wanted to follow suit when she saw the men jumping.

Souphavanh is frequently invited to lead her team in entertaining spectators during opening ceremonies and other special occasions.

It is a source of great pride to her to know that she can contribute to such events. There are not many women brave enough to jump from a height of more than 1,000 metres and as she has already completed this feat more than 1,000 times it has now become an honour for her rather than a fear.

“It’s the sense of adventure and challenge that attracts me to parachuting. When I joined the army, I always saw men jumping but never women. So I decided to make a jump when the helicopter was at an altitude of about 2,000 metres,” she recalls.

It’s not easy to be a good parachutist, she says, but if you are brave and do a lot of training it’s certainly possible. First she studied the theory involved and learnt how to control a parachute during a jump.

She first practised jumping from a height of just two or three metres.

During her 18 years of jumping, she has never had an accident. She says good preparation is very important if you want to touch down safely. It’s also best to avoid jumping in bad weather, such as strong wind or rain.

Souphavanh says the safest altitude range for a jump is 2,500 to 3,000 metres. However, she decided to jump from 1,500 metres at the Elephant Festival because she wanted the spectators to see her and her teammates actually stepping out of the helicopter.

She became the first woman teacher in the sport three years ago after having joined Battalion 703 in Vientiane back in 1999. Every Thursday morning, she takes trainees out on practice jumps to make sure they learn all the right skills. However, they have a long way to go before they can chalk up more than 1,000 jumps like their teacher.

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Lao Red Cross women promote gender equity

By Sisouphan Amphonephong
March 9, 2013

The Lao Red Cross held a special ceremony on Thursday to consider the traditional role of women and their part in promoting gender equity on the occasion of International Women’s Day.

Members of the organisation’s Women’s Union and Lao Trade Union and more than 20 other staff attended the event, which was also attended by the President of the Lao Red Cross, Mr Laoly Faiphengyua, and Deputy President of its Women’s Union, Ms Douangchan Kongfaly.

Speaking on behalf of the unions’ members, one woman stressed the importance of women’s inclusion and their role in promoting gender equity.

She encouraged Women’s Union members to strive harder for the advancement of women in their role as employees of the Lao Red Cross.

Local and international organisations in Laos work to promote the role and rights of women and protect their welfare and wellbeing, with various initiatives underway under the supervision of the Lao Women’s Union and international agencies.

International Women’s Day is observed every year in Laos by many offices and organisations, who hold sports events and entertainment activities to create a festive atmosphere and recognise the contribution made by women to society and the country’s development.

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