Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop visits Laos announcing, the government of Australia will provide AU$86 million on education aid for Laos

Introduction: The government of Australia has announced it will provide AU$86 million or more than 648.5 billion kip in aid to finance basic education programmes in Laos over the next four years. The announcement was made during her two day official visit to Laos by Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop who makes her first official visit to Laos from July 4-5.

Story: Australian Foreign Minister Julie 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 Thongloun Sisoulith.

Upon her arrival, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and her delegation paid their courtesy call on Prime Minister of the Lao PDR Thongsing Thammavong on Saturday the 5th of July
At the talk, the prime minister and Bishop discussed a range of bilateral and regional issues. Bishop has also emphasized Australia’s commitment to continued support to Laos’ economic development. Australia is one of Laos’ major development partners with an annual program worth over 60 million Australian dollars (56 million U.S. dollars).

It is highlighted that, Australia actively supports Laos in the fields of education, human resource development, rural development, unexploded ordnance clearance and victim support, trade and business reform, national resource management, and market-oriented agricultural research.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop also called on President of the Lao National Assembly Pany Yathotou to discuss Australia’s support in promoting women’s economic empowerment and leadership. Discussions included incorporating gender parity as a development priority in Laos’ next Socio-Economic Development Plan. She stressed that, Australia is committed to playing a key-supporting role in the economic development of Laos, particularly through support for the education sector, trade reform and rural development.

At the talks held on Saturday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Thongloun Sisoulith, 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.

Thongloun Sisoulith, 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.

He 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.

Thongloun Sisoulith 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. He said Laos will cooperate in implementing the plan.

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.

UXO contamination remains a leading cause of poverty in Laos and is one of the key factors limiting the country’s long-term development, preventing people from using land and denying access to basic services. UXO clearance efforts in Laos are important. Not only do they save lives, they support national development by providing spaces for schools, clean water, play spaces and safe farming land.

It is said that, the strong correlation between poverty and UXO presence across the country is clear, with 41 out of the 46 poorest districts contaminated by UXO. This remains a significant impediment to the nation’s efforts to achieve the MDGs.

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.

During her two-day trip to Laos, the Australian foreign minister has sought to continue the momentum of growing regional and global cooperation and high-level exchanges between Laos and Australia.

In 2012, Laos and Australia celebrated the 60th anniversary of bilateral relations between the two nations.

Source: Lao National Television News in English
Broadcast on July 7, 2014