Laos. As the first US Secretary of State in 57 years,
Hillary Clinton visited Laos in July. According to
countryaah, the legacy of the
Vietnam War in the 1960s and 1970s was discussed, as was a
disputed power dam construction in the Southeast Asian
country (see below). The United States made extensive
bombings across northern Laos during the war against Vietnam
in an attempt to cut off the Vietnamese Communist guerrilla
supply lines that passed through the northern part of Laos.
There, moreover, a domestic communist guerilla had grown
strong. The same guerrilla later took power in Laos in a
In November, the Lao government gave green light to the
construction of the disputed power plant dam at Xayaburi
adjacent to the Mekong River. The plans had previously
provoked protests from mainly environmental movements, but
also from neighboring countries Vietnam and Cambodia, which
are further downstream in the important Mekong race.
In February 1993, the Supreme People's Assembly met and
appointed Nuhak Fumsavanh as Republican President and PPRL
leader, Khamtay Sifandon as Prime Minister.
The country maintained its closed political system while
capitalist-oriented economic reforms continued. In 1993,
three former ministers remained in prison. In 1990, they had
proposed the implementation of democratic reforms. In
return, Prince Suvana Fuma was allowed to enter the country
as a representative of foreign companies.
By the 1980s, annual inflation had reached 46%. Under IMF
supervision it was now reduced to 10%. Gross domestic
product increased 7%.
US state aid agency AID granted a $ 9.7 million loan to
improve infrastructure in various parts of the country,
arguing that improved access to markets would improve living
Forestry has become a major problem in the country. By
1964, 6,000 m 3 had been felled. By 1993, the
figure had risen to 600,000 m 3. The same year,
the government imposed export restrictions. Instead, illegal
forestry, which in 1993 accounted for about half of total
forestry, increased. In March 1994, the World Bank initially
granted Laos $ 8.7 million to plant new forests.
Several international environmental organizations sharply
criticized the project, which relied on direct funding from
the central government, without contact with the local
authorities, who thus had no security to participate in the
project. The organizations also criticized the great
emphasis placed on planting trees for commercial
exploitation. A development that would further jeopardize
the forests and their inhabitants.
On April 6, 1994, the "Friendship Bridge" was opened
across the Mekong River between Thailand and Laos. The
project was an expression of reconciliation between the two
countries, and that Laos withdrew from Vietnam and
approached closer economic and cultural cooperation with
Thailand, which was a richer country.
In a short time, Thai banks, media, transport companies
and factories came to dominate the economic investment in
Laos, which was increasingly deprived of its socialist
principles. In March, a law was passed that removed the
remnants of planning economics. Another law guaranteed
professional rights and updated the regulation of
professional activity. Yet the government was determined to
preserve its communist identity.
In mid-1995, Laos expressed its desire to become a full
member of the Southeast Asian Cooperation Organization
(ASEAN) within a two-year period. The opening to foreign
countries was also reflected in the ratification of a border
agreement with Myanmar. At the same time, the United States
lifted its blockade of the country that had continued since
the end of the Vietnam War and which had limited the
financial assistance of the superpower.
In March 1996, Prime Minister Siphandon reaffirmed the
PPRL's status as the country's only legal party at its 6th
congress, while emphasizing liberalization, efficiency and
At the December 1997 parliamentary elections, PPRL
maintained its dominance as 99 MPs were elected. The
election results were not surprising, as only 4 of the 159
candidates stood outside the unit party.
The stock market crisis affecting several of the
countries in the region also had downsides in Laos, although
the scale was smaller than in Thailand and Malaysia. The
main impacts were price increases on imported goods and
basic consumer goods such as food.