Top Laotian Times News Stories of 2022

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The Laotian Times revisits the top news stories of the year 2022.

With the country opening up after over two years following the Covid-19 pandemic, Laos has repeatedly made headlines in the international press, highlighting the country as one of the best places to visit. Environmental issues also captured the interest of readers, alongside Laos’ stance on key political issues around the world. Meanwhile, an ever-rising inflation rate saw articles on the economy and crime leading to much discussion among the LT online community as well.

Here are the top 10 stories of 2022:

10. Nam Phou Fountain Officially Handed Back to Public  

With the country seeing a surge in tourism, this month the iconic Nam Phou fountain square located in the center of Vientiane Capital reopened to the public again following extensive renovations. The public space is filled with trees, manicured lawns, and a public seating area. It has been widely welcomed by locals and travelers alike.

9. Laos Tops Travel Destination Lists

Following the opening of the high-speed Laos-China Railway, the country has garnered a lot of international publicity from prestigious media outlets like National Geographic, CNN, Wanderlust and Fodor’s, all of whom echo the sentiment that Laos should feature in every traveler’s bucket list in 2023.

Hot Air balloons go up in the tourist town of Vang Vieng.

8. Laos-China Railway Unveils Ticket Reservation App

Celebrating one year of operations, the Laos-China Railway announced the launch of its mobile application for both Android and Apple devices in December. The app allows users to purchase tickets, make reservations, change reservation information, and even reserve tickets seven days ahead of their journey.

7. Arrest of Phonethip Xaypanya

In July, Thai immigration police arrested Phonethip Xaypanya, known as Jie Thip, who fled Laos after defrauding hundreds of people, making off with over USD 1 million after running a scam investment scheme.

6. Gordon Ramsay Names Laos as Top Food Destination

The celebrity chef who recently visited the country hailed Laos as the top food destination in the world in an online interview. According to Gordon Ramsay, the food in Laos is “off the charts.”

Gordon Ramsay in Laos
Gordon Ramsay in Laos (Gordon Ramsay on YouTube).

5. Fuel Crisis Grinds Nation to Halt as Foreign Currency Reserves Run Out

Just as Laos was opening up its borders in May this year, the country was plagued with a debilitating fuel crisis caused by a plummeting local currency and a lack of foreign reserves. At the peak of the crisis, fuel importers were able to procure only 20 percent of the nation’s monthly fuel requirement.

People line up for gas in Vientiane on June 20 when Vientiane Capital almost came to a standstill. (Photo courtesy of U.N. Department of Safety and Security, Laos)4. Laos Issues Official Statement on Ukraine

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February this year, Laos issued a statement through its Ministry of Foreign Affairs saying that it, “calls on all parties concerned to exercise utmost restraint and pursue efforts in deescalating the tension that may undermine international peace and security.”

3. US Lifts Visa Sanctions for Citizens of Laos

In June 2020, the United States Government discontinued the issuance of certain visas for citizens of Laos after a disagreement regarding the deportation of Lao nationals. However, most of the sanctions were withdrawn by the Biden administration this year, enabling citizens of Laos to again travel to the US for tourism or other purposes.

2. Last Irrawady Dolphin Dies in Laos

The freshwater dolphin population living in the Cheuteal transboundary pool between southern Laos and northern Cambodia had been in steady decline for some time. Sadly, the last freshwater Irrawaddy dolphin in Laos’ waters died this year after getting tangled in a fishing net. With the death of this last animal, the Irrawaddy Dolphin is now extinct in Laos.

irrawaddy dolphin in Laos
Irrawaddy dolphin in Laos

1. Laos Reopens to Tourism

Laos announced its full reopening to tourism in May this year, with fully vaccinated foreigners or Lao citizens carrying a vaccination certificates allowed to enter the country without any screening or testing for Covid-19 when arriving by land, air, or water. However, the requirement for proof of vaccination or Covid test results was scrapped by the government in the last week of December.

Tourism in Luang Prabang
A tourist rides a bicycle in Luang Prabang