SINGAPORE: The Republic has pledged its support for Laos’ upcoming chairmanship of Asean, and welcomed the commemoration of 50 years of diplomatic ties between both countries in 2024.
Laos’ Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Saleumxay Kommasith called on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday (Dec 7), and they discussed the two countries’ shared emphasis on human development and the importance of maintaining Asean centrality and unity as Laos prepares to chair the regional bloc.
Saleumxay, who is on a working visit to Singapore, was hosted to lunch by Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that the leaders reaffirmed the warm relations between Singapore and Laos, and exchanged views on stepping up bilateral cooperation, such as in renewable energy and the digital economy.
In a Facebook post, Lee said he thanked Saleumxay for Laos’ support of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR)-Thailand-Malaysia-Singapore Power Integration Project, and for making a significant step towards the vision of an Asean power grid.
The project, started in June 2022, has seen Singapore import up to 100MW of renewable hydropower from Laos through Thailand and Malaysia via existing interconnections.
About 270 gigawatt hours of electricity has been imported as at end-August 2023, Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong said in a parliamentary reply in October. That has met the electricity demand of over 41,000 households here over the same period.
Prior to his meeting with Lee, Saleumxay met 19 senior Laos officials who are in Singapore for a month-long English language course.
English courses are a significant part of the technical assistance that Singapore offers to Laos. More than 120 senior Laotian officials have participated in such courses over the last two decades, including those who went on to senior leadership positions such as Laos’ President Thongloun Sisoulith and Vice-President Pany Yathotou.
More than 16,000 Laos officials have attended training programmes offered by Singapore, said MFA.
In 2022, Lee announced an enhanced cooperation package to support Laos’ 2024 Asean chairmanship, which includes courses in report writing and public presentation skills.
Programme participant Bounmy Chounlachak, 59, said the course will set a good foundation for her to learn English at a higher level in the future.
It will also boost her confidence to speak and work with other English speakers, such as foreigners, said the vice-president of Laos’ National Academy of Political and Public Administration.
Saleumxay said Laos is grateful for Singapore’s support and cooperation, which has significantly contributed to his country’s socio-economic development.
“I believe that this will also make a significant contribution to human resource development, particularly to our senior government officials who will become the future leaders of the Lao PDR,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Saleumxay delivered the 24th Asean Lecture at the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute on his country’s priorities when it assumes the chairmanship.
This is the third time that Laos will hold the position, following its previous tenures in 2004 and 2016. Priorities include transforming for the digital future, striving for environmental cooperation, and advocating for women and children.
He noted that Laos takes the chair in a challenging time of geopolitical rivalries, climate change and uneven post-pandemic recovery for different countries.
On the Myanmar crisis, Saleumxay said he did not expect the matter to be resolved entirely during Laos’ chairmanship. Instead, resolving the crisis sparked in February 2021 by a military coup will be an “ongoing process” – a view that Asean foreign ministers share, he added.
“We will stick to the full and effective implementation of the Five-Point Consensus, which was adopted by Asean leaders,” said Saleumxay, referring to the peace plan that the bloc’s members and Myanmar’s junta chief agreed to two months after the coup. - The Straits Times/ANN