Lao Prime Minister Begins Three-Day Visit

Bounnhang Vorachith, prime minister of the Lao Peoples’ Dem­ocratic Republic, will arrive today, his 64th birthday, for a three-day visit to Cambodia.

Prime Minister Hun Sen is ex­pected to welcome Bounnhang Vorachith and his wife, Kham­meung, at Pochentong Airport at 9 am. The Lao prime minister, who served as a colonel in his country’s military and is a member of its Politburo, is considered an advocate for economic reform.

Laos, with a population of 5.4 million people, is one of the world’s poorest countries, with more than half its population under the age of 20 and more than 80 percent earning a subsistence living as farmers.

Vietnam exerts a strong influence on Laos, a one-party com­munist state whose Politburo is dominated by an aging group of generals. Cambodia’s relationship with Laos is currently warm, with both countries boasting of close cooperation in resolving on­going border disputes.

Analysts say Laos suffered two years of severe inflation before its economy began to stabilize last year. In April, the International Monetary Fund approved a three-year, $42 million loan program aimed at increasing economic growth and stability. Asiaweek magazine has called Bounnhang Vorachith a “progressive technocrat” and an “economic czar,” noting that he and his allies hope to im­prove conditions for Laotians through closer ties with Asean nations.

According to the Lao For­eign Ministry, the Lao premier was only 15 years old when he joined the revolutionary movement in 1952. He rose steadily through both the military and political hierarchy, and was sent to Vietnam at least twice for advanced studies. He has served as chairman of his country’s For­eign Investment Manage­ment Committee, its Cen­tral Board of Rural Devel­opment, and as Fi­nance Minister. He and his wife have five children.

During his visit, Bounnhang Vorachith will meet with King Norodom Sihanouk and Queen Norodom Monineath, Minister of Ministers Sok An and the Council of Ministers, Senate President Chea Sim and Prince Norodom Ranariddh, president of the National Assembly.

He also will meet today with Hun Sen, Sok An and Foreign Min­is­ter Hor Namhong. Tonight, Hun Sen will host a formal dinner for the Lao delegation at the Hotel Inter-Continental. On Thursday, Bounnhang Vorachith will visit the Royal Cambodia Phnom Penh Golf Club.

The delegation is scheduled to leave for Thailand Friday.

morning for Thailand.

 

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