VIENTIANE: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's two-day official visit to Laos beginning Monday (June 26) is expected to strengthen ties between Kuala Lumpur and Vientiane in light of the country’s Asean chairmanship next year.
Anwar’s maiden visit to the landlocked country is at the invitation of his Laos counterpart, Dr Sonexay Siphandone, which was made during the Asean Summit in Labuan Bajo, Indonesia, last month.
Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir in a press conference ahead of the visit said Anwar’s visit to Laos, the first for any Malaysian leader since 2016, was important as Malaysia would be taking over the Asean chairmanship in 2025 after Laos.
"The Prime Minister’s visit to Laos will provide an opportunity for leaders of both countries to build positive momentum before Laos assumes the Asean chairmanship from Indonesia,” he told a press conference here on Monday.
This is Anwar’s seventh official visit to an Asean member state after he was sworn in as the Prime Minister on Nov 24 last year. He had so far visited Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines and Cambodia.
The Prime Minister is expected to arrive here this evening, accompanied by his wife Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, and to be met by Laos Head of Prime Minister’s Office Alounxay Sounnalath.
Zambry said Anwar would be kicking off his visit by meeting the leaders of Muslim organisations at a hotel here to discuss the ummah issues. There are about 900 Muslims in Laos.
On the second day, Anwar will hold a bilateral meeting with Siphandone and discussions between the two leaders are expected to touch on ways of strengthening Malaysia and Laos relations as well as economic cooperation between the two countries.
The two leaders will then witness the signing of memoranda of cooperation (MoC) between Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB) and Lao National Railway State Enterprise (LNRSE) as well as Mutiara Perlis Sdn Bhd (MPSB) and Thanaleng Dry Port (TDP).
Zambry said Anwar and Siphandone will also witness the exchange of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) and Electricite du Lao (EDL).
During the visit, the Prime Minister will also pay courtesy calls on Laos President Dr Thongloun Sisoulith at the Presidential Palace and Laos National Assembly President Dr Xaysomphone Phomvihane at the National Assembly building.
Anwar will also be joining the Malaysian diaspora for a hi-tea event at the Malaysia Embassy here, where he will be officiating the embassy building in Laos' capital city.
Zambry said the total trade between Malaysia and Laos surged by 425 per cent from US$48.7mil (RM202.5mil) in 2021 to US$255.6mil (RM1.13bil) in 2022, mainly contributed by the increase in demand for Malaysia’s electronic products.
Malaysia is Laos' fourth biggest foreign direct investment (FDI) contributor last year after China, Thailand and Vietnam, mainly in the energy sector, free trade zone, automotive and banking sectors.
Malaysia and Laos have established diplomatic relations since July 1, 1966.- Bernama