Category Archives: opinion

Vientiane’s 200-year-old Trees Demolished for Hotel Construction

Banyan trees hacked away by developers

Vientiane residents have taken to social media in protest of the felling of a number of trees along the capital’s riverside, purportedly to make room for construction of a new hotel.

Wildlife In Sights: Pressures On Iconic Tiger, Elephant Draws Media Attention To Challenges Facing Laos

Tiger & Elephant Populations Under Local, Regional, Global Pressure: Laos biodiversity in the international media spotlight.

With the release of a major UN report on biodiversity loss, the state of and threats to wildlife worldwide and in hotspots like Laos including iconic species like the tiger and elephant draw more international media attention, The Laotian Times reports.

The most comprehensive ever completed, the UN Report IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services found Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unprecedented’; Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating’ 

The efforts of one award-winning wildlife defender to shed light on the plight of animals kept at illegal tiger farms posing as zoos in Laos was covered by the Washington Post.

Emaciated Tiger (Washington Post)

Emaciated Tiger (Washington Post)

“They all want hope and happy endings,” The Washington Post quotes Swiss conservationist Ammann as saying of many well-meaning yet naive folk at home and around the world.

“And I don’t see any happy endings. I can’t create fiction from what I see as fact,” 

Alleged Tiger Trader Nikhom Keovised (Washington Post)

Alleged Tiger Trader Nikhom Keovised (Washington Post)

Meanwhile, pachyderms were the focus of coverage by US-based National Public Radio (NPR) ‘A Million Elephants’ No More: Conservationists In Laos Rush To Save An Icon.

“The national government also has a reputation of being supportive of elephant conservation efforts across Laos. Within the last 30 years, catching wild elephants and trading wildlife have been banned. Laws severely restrict the logging industry in its use of elephants. Yet, despite these efforts, “if current trajectories continue there will be no elephants left in Laos by the year 2030,” NPR quoted an article co-written by Chrisantha Pinto, an American biologist at the center, as saying.

Challenges Facing Laos' Wildlife including Iconic Tigers and Elephants (NPR)

Challenges Facing Lao’ Wildlife including Iconic Tigers and Elephants (NPR)

The challenges facing the planet, its plants and animals are real.

What Would Buddha Do?

With a biodiversity hotspot like Laos under pressure from regional and global pressures brought by unsustainable human activity and law-breaking, it’s time to get serious about enforcing the rule of law to protect what natural beauty the country has left for the next generations of our and all species.

Infrastructure Development To Keep Laos Economy Growing Despite Headwinds, World Bank Says

Laos Among mentions in World Bank's Managing Headwinds in the East Asia Pacific April 2019

Global economic headwinds are impacting on the East Asia Pacific, yet large infrastructure projects are still expected to accelerate economic growth in Laos, according to The World Bank

25 Year Span: Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge Quarter Century Anniversary Arrives Via Australian Aid

First Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge Opened in 1994, Funded by Australia.

Hundreds of thousands of cross-border passenger and vehicle trips each year are made possible by the first friendship bridge that crosses the Mekong from Laos’ capital to neighboring Thailand and several additional spans just like it.

Laotian Eye: Faster Times At Pi Mai As Culture, Continuity, Change Collide at Lao New Year

Laotian Eye: Faster Times At Pi Mai As Culture, Continuity, Change Collide

Thailand knows the time of year as Songkran. Cambodia has Chol Chnam Thmey. Myanmar marks the occasion with Thingyan. In Laos, Boun Pi Mai.

Also Known as Lao New Year, the biggest festival on the Lao calendar brings three days of celebration and rejoicing across the country and beyond, taking place every year from April 14th to 16th.

Celebrating Pi Mai (Lao New Year)

While it’s said each month has a different celebration for the people of Laos, Boun Pi Mai is certainly a very special one to Laotians at home and abroad.

Please Don’t Rush, It’s Wet!

Times change and social mores are on the move, influencing lifestyles of contemporary Laos.

 

Celebrating Pi Mai AKA Lao New Year in Laos

Celebrating Pi Mai AKA Lao New Year in Laos

The celebration of Lao New Year is no different. Yet one constant throughout is water.

Whether its ceremonially offering respect to elders or playing and throwing or sprinkling it on friends, a primary activity is always to get others wet.

Many folks set up a small paddling pool in front of their house.

Others go around in a pickup with a water bucket and throw water for fun, despite it being officially frowned upon.

The roadsides of Vientiane and other cities brighten up, with shopkeepers offering bold New Year fashions to the passing public.

People dress up for the celebration, particularly in Luang Prabang where traditions hold tightest.

ເທວະດາຫລວງ ໄປບູຊາ ຄາຣະວະ ແລະຟ້ອນອວຍພອນປີໃຫມ່ລາວ ຢູ່ວັດຊຽງທອງ ໃນວັນທີ 15/04/2019

Posted by ນະຄອນຫລວງພຣະບາງ Luangprabang City on ວັນຈັນ ທີ 15 ເມສາ 2019

There is a conflict between the decorum required at places of worship and on the street beyond.

Many don’t know the history of when it’s started and why.

Celebrating Pi Mai AKA Lao New Year in Laos

Celebrating Pi Mai AKA Lao New Year in Laos

As a young and curious boy, I heard from my grandfather that it’s a Buddhist festival.

As devotees, we believe (as followers of many other religions also do) that New Year can take bad things away and bring good fortune.

Of course, the festival known as Boun Pi Mai is not only celebrated in Laos.

Celebrations in neighboring countries all derive from the same Buddhist calendar.

These might have been scheduled to coincide with time between harvest and planting seasons to provide a window of rare leisure in the year’s hectic schedule.

These days I can not remember my childhood New Year celebrations in great detail, yet I am sure we didn’t have so many activities available as recently.

Forgotten memories return when I see the children playing with water in a village in Ngoi district near the town of Luang Prabang province.

Celebrating Pi Mai AKA Lao New Year in Laos

Celebrating Pi Mai AKA Lao New Year in Laos

The village was quite rustic, but the children were having heaps of fun just as I did with my friends some 25 years ago.

They fetched water from a stream in the woods.

In my time we had to pump it out of the ground by hand.

Before throwing it over each other of course!

Growing up, our home was by the main roadside of Nontae village inXaythany district, about 25km from Vientiane.

We had a water pump in the village which was close to my house.

All of our friends would be there playing with water together.

We were delighted anytime whenever some people were passing by, so we hurried up to pump the water out and throw at them. We would never tire of it.

I also remember that at the time, many of our fellow countryfolks of the Hmong and Khmu ethnicity didn’t celebrate Boun Pi Mai so much as they might today.

@Lao Youth Radio FM 90.0 Mhz Lao Youth Union

Posted by Laos Briefly on ວັນພະຫັດ ທີ 26 ເມສາ 2018

Due to the difference in cultures, they were sometimes furious when we threw water at them, but we were not concerned enough to stop.

Whatever they said we still gave a blessing to them all the times while showering them repeatedly.

Back to the Village & Family Homes

My family is big and extended one like a tree.

As my grandparents stayed in my house, most of our family would have an appointment at the new year to visit and have a Somma ceremony.

Somma sees children seek forgiveness from parents and older adults by giving Khan-ha (a set of offerings comprising five pairs of flowers and candles) and also conduct a Baci ceremony as well.

I don’t know when I first experienced the Somma ceremony, but we did it with older family members every year for as long as I can remember.

In the past, we had a long three-day celebration but spent more of that time with family and cousins in our village.

Maybe it’s because we didn’t have a car to take us to go away anywhere.

We would do all the traditional and cultural ceremonies such as Somma, Baci, bathing Buddha statues in our local area.

Of course, the festival was primarily a family and community celebration. It was a timeless joy to experience these together.

Celebrating Pi Mai AKA Lao New Year in Laos

Celebrating Pi Mai AKA Lao New Year in Laos

Today, Lao New Year remains the biggest festival celebration and taking place everywhere nationwide.

Of course, anyone of any ethnic group or nationality can have fun together in Laos these days at Boun Pimai.

However, some things are changing. More and more cultural traditions are being left by the wayside.

Celebrating Pi Mai AKA Lao New Year in Laos

Young people have more time for loud music than culture, especially along the roadsides, house and drinking venues.

Of course, it’s enjoyable to mess around with water and have fun, but we should be aware of the meaning behind it.

Laotian youth at home and abroad should also know what Lao New Year means and continue the traditional forms of celebration for the benefit of current and future generations.

Future Electric: EV Destiny Driving Rapidly Towards Laos

Electric Vehicles (EV) closer in Laos with Agreement Between EDl & EVLao

Promising prospects for electric vehicles (EV) in Laos as an agreement signed between power producer ລັດວິສາຫະກິດໄຟຟ້າລາວ EDL and electric-powered vehicle proponents EVLao, The Laotian Times reports.

Looking to industry leaders at manufacturing hotpots like Japan, Germany & China, it would appear the early arrival of the electric age when it comes to motor vehicle transport is already well and truly upon us.

In Laos, a milestone was marked with the holding of the nation’s first electric vehicle summit and MoU signing last week in the capital Vientiane at the very first Lao National Electric Vehicle Summit.

. The agreement will see the trial of vehicle charging stations and technology to push progress towards a future where electric vehicles are more free to traverse the highways and byways of Laos and beyond.

ພາບບັນຍາກາດງານ LAO National Electric Vehicle Summit 2019

Posted by EVLao on ວັນພະຫັດ ທີ 4 ເມສາ 2019


“The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.” – William Gibson

At a time when technology is progressing faster than ever, these words attributed to futurist and science-fiction writer William Gibson are revealing.

It doesn’t take a genius to guess that in the future, roads in Laos are expected to see many more electric cars than we can see today.

A net electricity exporter and fuel oil importer, one can see the attraction of electric vehicles even before the other benefits are taken into account.

Yet with a transformation this big, there is plenty to consider.

Preparing the socio-economy for the changing needs of the modern era as they quickly transforming with the availability of cleaner energy technologies involves resolutions to complicated challenges.

Given that successful deployment of electric vehicles in Laos requires public and private partnerships, It is important to look at technical mechanisms for using electric vehicles in Laos as well as tax policies and the expected infrastructure investment profiles.

Posted by EVLao on ວັນອາທິດ ທີ 31 ມີນາ 2019

EV Lao and EDL agree to trial electric vehicles

An aim is to study the feasibility of using the electricity system to provide energy-powered vehicles in the Lao PDR.

On the morning of April 2, 2019, at Landmark Hotel in Vientiane, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was held jointly with EV Lao Co., Ltd. between the Lao Electric Power Enterprise EDL and EV Lao Company Limited.

How long until the entire world (& Laos!) has electric cars?

It’s a billion dollar question.

What we do know is that the vehicle fleet in Laos, as in other countries, must become less carbon intensive if we are to avoid the worst effects of catastrophic climate change.

While not exactly at the leading edge of uptake, prospects for electric vehicles in Laos are positive from the current low base.

The movements in the global environment and technical landscape are favoring the development of low carbon transportation in ways never seen before.

Laos will be affected by developments worldwide and in major manufacturing hubs.

The nation’s capacity to benefit will depend on both regulators, public and private sectors to grab a hold of the wheel and steer Laos to a cleaner motoring future.

 

Electric Vehicles (EV) closer in Laos with Agreement Between EDl & EVLao

Electric Vehicles (EV) closer in Laos with Agreement Between EDl & EVLao

Doing, Doing, Done: Can-Do Cycle Team Dai Rides On Against Odds For HOPE Children’s Charity

Cyclist Charity Team Dai on a Mountaintop!

Laos-based international cyclist charity Team Dai including keen cyclist Ms Thu Ng from Vietnam tackle multiple challenges, raise confidence levels and much-needed funds, seeking to surpass the USD15,000 donation mark for disadvantaged children’s Hope Centre. 

Thinking of cycling, in some parts of the world, and lycra-clad road warriors and their aspirants will come to mind.

In others, perhaps a leisurely cruise down a local bike path or in a park, perhaps by a lake or riverside.

Elsewhere, this is not quite the case. In the case of developing countries like Laos, cycling is often seen as hot, old fashioned, disadvantageous and even highly dangerous.

Road safety is also a malleable concept. Drink driving too often prevails, peaking during festive seasons.

You could say being a cyclist in Laos is generally no “ride in the park”.

In fact, it can be an activity that best suits the determined.

The fairly flat Vientiane plain notwithstanding, Laos is certainly a majority mountainous country.

The quality of roads can leave a great deal wanting. Its a fact that surfacing on many a Lao thoroughfare is often in a more rustic condition than you see at the neighbors. Add a very warm, tropical climate and variable air quality as issues that impact.

 

It is also a developing nation where most folks aspire to motor vehicle ownership, cycling does not convey the status it does in more developed nations.

Cycling them puts you in close contact with all the vehicles, large and small, controlled by drivers of all levels of skill, experience, and temperament.

So why would a woman cycle?

It’s a question keen rider Ms Thu Ng knows better than most.

Growing up in neighboring Vietnam before making a home with her husband from Laos, she has been living in the capital Vientiane for some years.

"This year's Team Dai Challenge was my fourth. For me, it was another great year of riding with like-minded and supportive Team Dai members." Thu Ng, cyclist

“This year’s Team Dai Challenge was my fourth. For me, it was another great year of riding with like-minded and supportive Team Dai members.” Ms Thu Ng

She comes up against reflexively scornful attitudes toward the humble bicycle and cyclists both on the streets and at home.
It’s positive health and social impacts are less understood.

Cycling can be seen as a dangerous activity and certainly not one for a woman, particularly wife or mother, to be engaged in.

Ms Thu Ng tackled her fourth Team Dai Challenge for charity raising some US$14,630 to date for the HOPE Center’s work.

She shared her thoughts on the ride from her perspective as a keen cyclist and woman.

“This year’s Team Dai Challenge was my fourth and for me, it was another great year of riding with like-minded and supportive Team Dai members.” 

“In the Asian culture in which I grew up, I normally get told that women should stay home and not risk their lives.

“This mindset makes it hard for us women to engage in what is seen as extreme sports or exercise.”

“But I am a real optimist and believe that the best part of life is having the freedom to do whatever you are passionate about.

“This is happiness and this is all about life.”

Team Dai members including Ms Thu Ng

Team Dai members including Ms Thu Ng

Similarly, she was drawn to the engaging aspect of making a contribution to the society of the country she calls home.

“It has been said that giving is a simple solution towards some of the world’s most complicated problems. 

“So every year, we volunteer our time and efforts to carry out Team Dai’s mission of raising funds to help our community.

“For me personally, the ability to give support and spread love is the very best part of every Team Dai challenge.”

Team Dai Cyclist Charity Efforts Fund HOPE

The recipient of this affection in 2019 is the HOPE Centre, a community outreach program launched by ARDA Language Centre Vientiane in 2006.

HOPE Centre helps over 200 children and youth who are at risk of abuse, exploitation, and human trafficking.

The center aims to serve the most vulnerable children and youth in the community to see them grow and develop in a healthy way and give them new hope for the future.

It does so by providing a safe environment where children begging on the streets, those living in slum communities and working could stop in during the day to bathe, receive medical care, a nutritious meal, general education and be involved in other activities including arts & crafts, music, sports and participate in special events.

Staff work alongside families living in poor communities to alleviate child labor and exploitation by helping them improve their livelihoods, parenting skills, and living conditions so that their children will have a suitable place to live and attend school.

Cyclist Charity Team Dai at HOPE Center

Cyclist Charity Team Dai at HOPE Center

Trauma counseling, educational therapy, and social skills development to child victims of abuse and exploitation help them address past experiences and move forward to lead productive lives.

Scholarships are also provided to help deter children from begging or being forced into other forms of child labor while providing enhanced educational opportunities.

Meanwhile, sporting activities including soccer and volleyball are used to divert children and youth from being drawn into a downward spiral including drug abuse.

Team Dai Cyclist Members in Luang Prabang

Team Dai Cyclists in Luang Prabang

Located at ARDA Language Centre in Vientiane, HOPE Centre welcomes every child, particularly the poor and vulnerable, a worthy cause Team Dai are proud to support.

Team Dai Cyclist Celebrates

Team Dai Cyclist Celebrates Calf-Building Charity Efforts

Public Financial Management A Path To Maximize Return On Investment in Future of Laos: World Bank

Public Financial Management

With a growing population and rapidly developing and urbanizing socio-economy requiring investment in human resources and infrastructure, the calls on public finances in Laos are larger than ever.

These needs are spread across all the sectors you’d find in most countries, along with some particular challenges like unexploded ordnance (UXO).

To fund responses to these needs, the government of Lao PDR is working with partners on improving the management of public finances in the ASEAN member country of some 6.8 million. These include such names as the World Bank and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

Budgeting for present and future needs is a must. World Bank has a handy explainer:

“Ultimately, an improved PFM system will benefit all Lao citizens and provide them with more information on how the national budget is used.

“Strong management of public finances means more effective and equitable delivery of public services to all Lao people including education, healthcare, energy, and law enforcement.”

What is Public Financial Management (PFM)?
“PFM stands for Public Financial Management. It relates to the way governments manage public funds and the impacts on the growth of the economy and the wellbeing of citizens. Managing public resources involves how the government earns money, known as revenue, and how the government spends money, or expenditure. Revenue may come from taxes, money earned by state enterprises, or foreign aid, for example. Expenditures are, for instance, government wages, purchasing goods and services, and spending on infrastructure and public services.”

How does PFM work in Lao PDR?

“PFM begins with Budget Formulation and Preparation. Officials at the Ministry of Finance look at how much money the government will earn from all possible sources, and how much money the government intends to spend.

Using this information, the government develops a Budget Plan, which determines how much money should be allocated for each sector and Ministry. The National Assembly is responsible for approving this yearly Budget Plan.

Once the Budget Plan is approved, Budget Execution begins. This is how the money gets spent; that is, how the money goes from being collected to being used. In modern PFM systems, Budget Execution is done through an IT system called Financial Management Information System (FMIS). Lao PDR is currently upgrading to a modern FMIS with funding from the World Bank.

At the end of each year, the Ministry of Finance prepares a document that summarizes how the money was spent. Then the State Audit Organization validates the information by auditing the annual financial statements. With the new FMIS system, reporting and auditing will become easier, faster, and more transparent.”

Who is supporting PFM in Lao PDR?

“To assist the government in implementing PFM reforms, the World Bank has provided US$20 million to the Lao Government for the Enhancing PFM through ICT and Skills (E-FITS) Project (2019 – 2025), which will finance the implementation of a new financial management information system and strengthen the PFM capacity of staff at the Ministry of Finance. In addition, the Delegation of the European Union to the Lao PDR has provided financial support to the World Bank and the Ministry of Finance in the form of a €4,900,000 Trust Fund for the Public Finance Management Reform Program (2018 – 2022), which will support the following areas:

  1. Strengthening budget preparation and execution: to ensure budgets are more realistic and efficiently spent.
  2. Public procurement: to ensure that the government gets good value for money when it buys goods and services or builds infrastructure.
  3. Tax administration: to ensure the government generates revenue from the taxes paid by businesses and citizens.
  4. Reform Coordination: to support coordination and cooperation between government agencies and to built a monitoring and evaluation system for the PFM Reform progress.”

How will this benefit Lao PDR?

“The World Bank’s PFM program builds the skills of the Ministry of Finance, improves how the country’s public finances are used, and helps the government to make decisions at the right time.

Ultimately, an improved PFM system will benefit all Lao citizens and provide them with more information on how the national budget is used. Strong management of public finances means more effective and equitable delivery of public services to all Lao people including education, healthcare, energy, and law enforcement.”

PFM Expert Andrew Lawson says via GSDRC:
PFM refers to the set of laws, rules, systems,
and processes used by sovereign nations (and sub-national governments), to mobilize revenue, allocate public funds, undertake public spending, account for funds and audit results. It encompasses a broader set of functions than financial management and is commonly conceived as a cycle of six phases, beginning with policy design and ending with external audit and evaluation (Figure 1). A large number of actors engage in this “PFM cycle” to ensure it operates effectively and transparently, whilst preserving accountability.”