President Thongloun Says Laos Will Not Take Sides in Today’s Conflicts

Laos President Thongloun Sisoulith at the Nikkei Future of Asia Conference
Laos President Thongloun Sisoulith at the Nikkei Future of Asia Conference (Photo: Nikkei/Tomoki Mera).

President of Laos, Thongloun Sisoulith, said economic sanctions and embargoes “would not make the world a better place,” in response to Western nations and a few of their Asian allies.

Mr. Thongloun made the remark in an address to Nikkei’s Future of Asia conference, joining online from Laos.

He did not mention specific governments or issues, although sanctions have recently been used against Myanmar’s military regime as well as Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, Nikkei reports.

Peace and stability “can only be achieved through negotiation and compromise,” said Mr. Thongloun, saying that the Asian region is advancing toward a development path that is unprecedented.

“We should not lose this rare opportunity, or [allow] it to be shattered or destroyed easily. We should protect and prevent it from rolling into disaster.”

The speech comes as members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have displayed mixed reactions to the war in Ukraine.

Laos and Vietnam famously abstained from a United Nations resolution to condemn Russia for its aggression against Ukraine.

Singapore has imposed economic sanctions on Russia, while Indonesia, Brunei, and the Philippines have criticized the attack without naming Russia.

“We have a clear foreign policy direction. Laos will not take sides in today’s conflicts and disputes,” said Mr. Thongloun during a question-and-answer session following his speech.

“Our country is taking a role of centrality [as a] core value in the foreign policy.”

When asked about Laos’ relationship with China, Mr. Thongloun said that as a landlocked country, Laos faces challenges related to connectivity.

He said that Chinese assistance is essential, but that Laos has partnered with many other countries as well, including Vietnam and Japan, as well as financial institutions such as the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank.