The government of Australia has announced it will provide AU$86 million (more than 648.5 billion kip) in aid to finance basic education programmes in Laos over the next four years, the Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said.

The announcement was made during the official visit to Laos by Australian foreign minister Ms Julie Bishop, the ministry said in a press release.

Ms Bishop and her delegation arrived in Laos on July 4 for a two-day official visit in response to an invitation from her Lao counterpart Mr Thongloun Sisoulith.

In addition, the Australian government has announced it will provide further aid amounting to AU$55.6 million (more than 419.3 billion kip) to Laos for 2014-2015, an increase from the AU$52.9 million given for 2013-2014.

At the talks held on Saturday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Thongloun, on behalf of the Lao government and people, expressed heartfelt thanks to the government and people of Australia for the valuable support and assistance it has extended to Laos.

Mr Thongloun, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, told Ms Bishop that the assistance has contributed significantly to the socio-economic development of Laos.

The Australian assistance has mainly focused on education, human resource development, support for growth in trade and sustainable investment, rural development, clearance of unexploded ordnance (UXO) and infrastructure development.

The Lao foreign minister highly valued the visit of Ms Bishop and her delegation to Laos, saying it would contribute significantly to enhancing the friendly relations and cooperation between the two countries and the two foreign ministries.

During the talks the Lao foreign minister also proposed the government of Australia, which is a dialogue partner with Asean, to extend further support in narrowing the development gap among Asean members, especially for the four new Asean members – Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Mr Thongloun also called for Australian support for Asean integration, Asean community building after 2015, and Asean centralisation for any mechanisms that Asean initiated.

The Lao foreign minister proposed Australia support and assist Laos in its preparations for Asean presidency in 2016 including support on capacity building for Lao officials.

In this regard Ms Bishop said Australia was pleased to support and assist Lao preparations for its Asean presidency, as well as preparations to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Asean-Australia relations at the end of this year.

Mr Thongloun told Ms Bishop that Laos fully supports the ‘New Colombo Plan’ in which the government of Australia will send its students for study and training in Asean member countries including Laos. Mr Thongloun said Laos will cooperate in implementing the plan. During the visit, the Australian foreign minister also paid courtesy visits to Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong, and President of the National Assembly Ms Pany Yathotou.

Ms Bishop also met with Minister of Education and Sport Dr Phankham Viphavanh and attended an opening ceremony for a basic education opportunity and improvement programme.

Ms Bishop also visited Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise known as (COPE) – the locally-run non-profit organisation working with the Centre of Medical Rehabilitation, Ministry of Health and four provincial rehabilitation centres in an innovative partnership to provide comprehensive rehabilitation services for UXO survivors and other people with disabilities across Laos.

Ms Bishop and her delegation also visited a lower secondary school in Hormneua village in Hadxaifong district, Vientiane. The school was a sister school to Analie primary school in Canberra.

The two foreign ministers spoke highly of the growing long-standing friendly relations and cooperation between Laos and Australia over the past six decades since both sides established diplomatic relations in 1952.

Laos and Australia have maintained regular contact and exchanges of visits by their officials at various levels.

The two countries have supported each other in the regional and international arenas, according to the press release.

Mr Thongloun thanked Australia for its support extended to Laos’s accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), to which Laos was granted membership on February 2, 2013.

Source: Vientiane Times
Published on July 7, 2014