Laos and neighbouring Thailand have elevated their bilateral ties to a “Strategic Partnership for Growth and Sustainable Development” as Prime Minister Phankham Viphavanh made an official visit to the Kingdom after assuming office last year.
The two sides also signed three Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) to deepen cooperation.
Prime Minister Phankham and his delegation visited Thailand from June 1-2 in response to an invitation from his Thai counterpart General Prayuth Chan-ocha.
The Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a press statement that the elevated ties represent an important milestone in the countries’ 72-year diplomatic relations.
Speaking at a joint press conference held on Wednesday shortly after talks between the two leaders, General Prayuth said the elevated ties open a new chapter in bilateral relations.
The two prime ministers witnessed the signing of a five-year action plan for the strategic partnership for 2022-2026, an MOU on Cooperation on the Development of Electrical Energy in Laos 2022, and an MOU on the Laos-Thailand Arboretum Project.
In addition, the Thai PM handed over to Prime Minister Phankham the support of the Thai government for the establishment of the Thai-Lao Friendship Centre for Social Development in Xaythany district, Vientiane, which aims to provide a one-stop service and support for victims of human trafficking.
In the sphere of economics, Laos and Thailand agreed to work closely to revive people’s livelihoods and economic activities along border areas that have been adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Thai premier said as he highlighted the key outcomes of the talks with his Lao counterpart in a post on the Thai government’s website.
“Prime Minister Phankham and I are pleased that today is the first day that all international border points of entry between our two countries have reopened,” the General said.
“Both sides will further coordinate to resume operations at the remaining temporary border points of entry at the earliest opportunity.”
The two sides agreed to revive tourism cooperation to create jobs and income for the peoples of the two countries. They will work on the conclusion of an action plan to promote tourism linkages between the two nations, especially the tourism route between Luang Prabang province in Laos and the northern provinces of Thailand.
“I reaffirmed Thailand’s readiness to support the Lao PDR on the construction of the Xieng Man–Luang Prabang Bridge to promote tourism connectivity along this corridor,” General Prayuth said. The two sides also agreed to further accelerate and expand transport connectivity, particularly the rail link between the two countries, through the construction of a new railway bridge near the First Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge (Vientiane and Nong Khai).
“We have instructed the relevant agencies of both countries to engage in discussions and finalise the bridge design as soon as possible by the end of this year,” the Thai PM said.
“We also agreed to work together to utilise the full potential of the Laos-China Railway for the benefit of both countries.”
The two prime ministers agreed to advance key infrastructure projects and further harmonise relevant standards and regulations. These include construction of the Fifth Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge (Buengkan-Borikhamxay) and the Sixth Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge (Ubon Ratchathani-Saravan), improvement of Road Number 12 (R12) in Laos (Nakhon Phanom-Khammuan-Napao), and the installation of Common Control Areas (CCA) at mutually agreed international points of entry to minimise the time and money spent on customs clearance at border crossings, which will benefit the peoples of both countries.
Both sides also agreed to strengthen cooperation with respect to the development of a digital economy. Thailand stands ready to support Laos on the development of digital skills and capacity-building of human resources, as well as the improvement of international payment systems. The two countries also pledged to enhance cooperation on clean energy.
Thailand is one of Laos’s leading trading partners. Two-way trade reached US$7.2 billion in 2021, an increase of 14 percent year-on-year, according to the Lao ministry.
In terms of cooperation in the area of security, the two sides will step up border patrols to prevent illegal border crossings and further strengthen cooperation in the prevention and suppression of drug trafficking, the Thai PM said. Moreover, the two countries will work together to tackle organised crime such as “call centre gangs” and human trafficking, in order to prevent people from falling victim to these criminal networks.
Also, the two prime ministers agreed to further strengthen bilateral development cooperation in public health, particularly between hospitals along the countries’ shared border. Both sides will also work closely in the areas of agriculture and human resources development.
On this occasion, PM Prayuth announced that the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation of Thailand is ready to provide over 700 scholarships to young people from Laos so that they may pursue higher education in Thailand. Prime Minister Phankham, on behalf of the Lao government, expressed heartfelt gratitude to the Thai government for the assistance and support extended to Laos over past years.
Concerning sub-regional and regional cooperation, the prime ministers agreed that both countries should closely coordinate and enhance cooperation in order to be better prepared for present and future challenges.
Thailand fully supports Laos as the host of the 10th ACMECS Summit this year to unite the efforts of the countries in the Mekong Sub-region towards achieving a strong and sustainable economic recovery.
Thailand and Laos also reaffirmed their commitment to working closely to promote Asean solidarity and further integration among Asean member states, which is essential for Asean to continue playing important roles in the maintenance of regional security, stability and development.
By Times Reporters
(Latest Update June 3, 2022)
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