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Asean must bridge development gaps: Lao envoy
Publication Date : 10-10-2013
In the run up to the Asean and East Asia summits that will be held in Bandar Seri Begawan this week, The Brunei Times is running a series of interviews with Asean envoys based in Brunei Darussalam. Today we speak with the Lao ambassador to Brunei Darussalam, His Excellency Souvanna Phouyavong.
Q: How do you think Asean has progressed this year as a grouping? What have been its main achievements and shortcoming?
]A: Brunei Darussalam, under the leadership of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, so far, has successfully, fully and proactively fulfilled its noble tasks and responsibility as Asean Chair for 2013.
The theme chose for this year's Asean Chair "Our People, Our future together" is very timely with focus on people oriented community and Young Asean.
The main achievements are: the successful conduct of all Asean related meetings ranging from Asean sectoral bodies, senior officials meetings, Asean ministerial meetings and the 22nd summit in April 2013.
A series of important documents and statements have been adopted, among others, joint communiqué and 22nd Asean Summit chairman's statement.
All in all, Asean community building 2015 is progressing well; all dialogue partners continue pledging their supports of Asean centrality and Asean driving force.
In the political and security pillar, Asean has been contributing their efforts to enhance peace, security, regional capacity and confidence through the Asean Ministerial Meeting (AMM); the Asean Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime (AMMTC); the Asean Law Ministers Meeting (ALAWMM) and the Asean Regional Forum (ARF); the Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting-Plus Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief and Military Medicine Exercise (HADR & MMEX).
Likewise, in the economic pillar so far 79.7 per cent of the action lines under this pillar have been achieved by Dec 31, 2015, Asean will become a single market and a production base.
The negotiation of RCEP is on-going and progressing well. The socio-cultural pillar is also progressing well alongside with both the political and economical pillars.
With regards to the shortcomings, there are two main issues, the first being we, Asean, need to pay our utmost attention to time constraints, we have less than two years to achieve our Asean Community building by December 31, 2015 and the second, narrowing development gaps to be bridged to enable CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam) countries fully integrate into Asean Community building.
Q: How does Laos see Asean progressing after 2015?
A: Through continuous Asean Community building beyond 2015, continuing addressing narrowing development gaps of CLMV countries including Laos, more focus on people-oriented (community) especially human capital.
Q: What do you think are some of the key issues that will be raised at upcoming Asean and East Asia summit this October?
A: I am of the view, both regional and international issues will be tabled namely the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), regional architecture and Asean centrality.
Q: Could you tell us briefly the state of bilateral relations of your country with Brunei and how you see it developing over the next years? Are there any specific areas of cooperation that will embark on in near future?
A: Since 1993, Lao PDR and Brunei have long enjoyed close relations and cooperation.
The leaders of the two countries have been exchanging visits and met each other regularly, including an official visit by Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong in March 2013.
There were also exchange visits at ministerial and technical levels of two sides.
Lao PDR and Brunei have attempted to promote cooperation in the economy, culture, education and sports so as to better benefit our two countries.
Some areas that both countries have been seeking to promote are:
Culture: Lao PDR and Brunei have signed an MOU on culture cooperation to exchange experience from each other during the visit to Brunei of Lao President Choummaly Sayasone.
At the beginning of this year there was a technical visit from Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports of Brunei to Lao PDR and we will further exchange the visit to strengthening our cooperation and learning from each other.
Education: Brunei has provided assistance to the Lao PDR in terms of human resource development, various technical training programmes including English training, computer skills and other kinds of support and assistance.
Youth: Lao PDR and Brunei have signed an MOU on youth cooperation during the visit of Lao Prime Minister at the beginning of this year to exchange programmes.
Economy: Trade volume between two countries is not very significant but we can carry out barter trade.
We can barter some products such as rice, furniture and others for oil and gas products from Brunei.
In the future, Lao and Brunei should promote investors to invest in both countries such as agriculture, forestry, electric energy, industry and others that two sides have potential.