Laos, Singapore enjoy closer relations

LAO PDR (Vientiane Times) - Laos and Singapore have enjoyed a good relationship for almost half a century, with their longstanding ties becoming deeper and stronger, especially since Laos became a member of ASEAN.

Mr Saleumxay Kommasith receives Singapore Ambassador to Laos Leow Siu Lin when she paid a courtesy visit last week.

A senior Lao official and the head of Singaporean diplomats in Laos conveyed this sentiment when addressing a reception held in Vientiane last Friday to mark the 54th National Day of the Republic of Singapore and 45 years of diplomatic relations between Laos and Singapore.

At the reception, Lao Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Saleumxay Kommasith highlighted the activities that had intensified the friendship and cooperation between the two countries through government-to-government and people-to-people visits. “This has deepened mutual understanding, trust and confidence between our leaders and governments as well as between the Lao and Singaporean peoples,” he said.

Mr. Saleumxay, representing the government and people of Laos, extended thanks and appreciation to the government and people of Singapore for their invaluable assistance and support, which he said significantly contributed to Laos’ socio-economic development. He noted that the two countries supported each other at various regional and international forums.

Speaking at last week’s event, Singapore Ambassador to Laos Leow Siu Lin said the two countries enjoyed a longstanding friendship. “Bilateral relations are excellent and marked by cooperation in various fields. We are also close partners within ASEAN. Laos joined the ASEAN family in 1997, and our bilateral cooperation has grown deeper and stronger over the years,” the ambassador said.

She said Laos-Singapore relations were underpinned by close interactions and exchanges at the highest political levels such as the visits by President Bounnhang Vorachit last year, and Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith in 2017. Lao Minister of Justice Dr. Xaysi Santivong visited Singapore in August to sign the Singapore Convention on Mediation. Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Sommad Pholsena visited Singapore last month at the invitation of his Singapore counterpart. Former Singapore President Dr. Tony Tan and various ministers have also visited Laos. Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Defence, Dr. Maliki Osman, made a bilateral visit to Laos in June. Minister for Community, Culture, and Youth, Grace Fu, visited Laos in July while Minister for Communication and Information, S Iswaran, will be visiting Laos later this month to attend the ASEAN Telecommunication and Information Technology Ministers’ Meeting.

According to the ambassador, Singaporean companies are keen to explore investment opportunities in Laos in the sectors of logistics, business services, tourism, healthcare, and education, which she said would complement Laos’ development priorities. “There is scope for investment and Singapore is keen to be a part of Laos’ growth story,” Ambassador Siu Lin said.

Around 600 to 700 students, youth and volunteer groups from Singapore have visited Laos to participate in community service projects and exchange programmes. Many of these travel to the provinces to undertake volunteer projects such as constructing schools and community halls.

Under Singapore cooperation programmes, nearly 14,000 Lao officials have received training since 1992 in a range of areas, including English language, public governance and public administration, and trade facilitation. Training takes place either in Singapore or at the recently upgraded Laos Singapore Cooperation Centre in Vientiane.

“This centre is a symbol of Singapore’s continuing commitment to support Laos’ development and we hope to offer more training programmes to benefit Lao officials,” the head of Singapore’s diplomats in Laos said.

In addition to the Singapore Cooperation Programme, the Singapore government awards Asean scholarships to secondary school students as well as for postgraduate degrees at the National University of Singapore and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

There are also non-governmental initiatives such as those supported by Singapore NGOs such as the Temasek Foundation International and the Singapore International Foundation.