|Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc (R) welcomes his Lao counterpart Thongloun Sisoulith on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on ASEAN in Hanoi in September 2018 (Photo: VNA)
Vietnam and Laos boast a long-standing special solidarity and faithful relationship nurtured by late Presidents Ho Chi Minh, Kaysone Phomvihane and Souphanouvong, and generations of the two countries’ leaders and peoples.
Over the past years, the two sides have been unceasingly consolidating and developing the great friendship, special solidarity and comprehensive cooperation between the two Parties, States and peoples, considering these as important factors of the success of each country’s national development and defence.
Bilateral political and diplomatic ties have continued to be reinforced, as seen through mutual visits at all levels. By the end of August, the countries had exchanged more than 120 delegations, about 60 of which were at the deputy ministerial or higher levels.
Vietnamese leaders who visited Laos recently include Party General Secretary and State President Nguyen Phu Trong (February 24 – 25), and National Assembly Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan (September 26 – 29). Meanwhile, top leaders of Laos have also paid visits to Vietnam such as Party General Secretary and State President Bounnhang Vorachith (August 9 – 12), National Assembly Chairwoman Pany Yathotou (March 4 – 8), and PM Thongloun Sisoulith (May 31 – June 1).
Cooperation in defence, security and diplomacy has continued to record new developments. The two countries have actively implemented the five-year cooperation protocol and annual defence – security cooperation plans, helping to ensure political stability, security and social order and safety in each nation. They have also effectively carried out the agreement on border regulations and the one on settling irregular migration and undocumented marriage in their border areas.
Additionally, both sides have continued working together to search for and repatriate the remains of Vietnam’s volunteer soldiers and experts who laid down their lives in Laos during wartime. In the 2017 – 2018 dry season, 233 sets of remains were repatriated from Laos.
The countries have also coordinated closely and supported each other at regional and international forums. They have further enhanced cooperation with each other and other ASEAN members in building the ASEAN Community and maintaining the bloc’s solidarity and consensus in the strategic issues of the region, including the East Sea issue.
Laos strongly supported Vietnam’s bid for a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council and holding of the ASEAN Chairmanship in 2020.
Both have coordinated closely with other nations and relevant international organisations to manage and use the Mekong River’s water resources in a sustainable and effective manner.
Increasingly substantive partnerships
Progress has been recorded in bilateral relations in economy, culture, education – training and science – technique.
Trade between Vietnam and Laos topped 1 billion USD in 2018 and reached 748 million USD in the first eight months of 2019, up 14.2 percent year on year. The new trade agreement and the cross-border trade deal are being implemented actively with the aim of sustaining the annual trade growth rate at 10 percent at least.
Vietnam remains the third largest foreign investor in Laos. According to the Lao Ministry of Planning and Investment, by June 2019, Vietnamese businesses had invested 4.22 billion USD in 411 projects in Laos, mainly on hydropower, mining, services, agriculture and telecom.
Besides, cooperation in education – training and culture has continued to receive attention. The two sides have effectively implemented the project on improving the quality and effectiveness of bilateral ties in education and human resources development for 2011 – 2020.
In 2018, Vietnam provided 1,271 scholarships for Laos, up 271 from the two governments’ decision, and Laos gave 60 scholarships for Vietnam. There are 14,656 Lao students in Vietnam, which also has 260 students in Laos at present.
Vietnam has opened 24 short-term refresher courses for 497 Lao cadres in different fields and sent teachers of Vietnamese language to 28 educational establishments across Laos.
Cultural exchange and tourism promotion activities have also been stepped up at all levels, helping to deepen mutual understanding between the two peoples.
Additionally, links between Vietnamese and Lao localities, especially the border ones, have been further strengthened, including in infrastructure building, health care, human resources development, and border security ensuring.
The two sides have created more favourable conditions for the Vietnamese and Lao communities in the other country. Associations of Vietnamese people have been set up in 12 of the 18 provinces and cities of Laos so far.