The defense of Laos, which is based on general military duty with an initial service of at least 18 months, comprises (2009) about 29,000 men and is organized into 5 infantry divisions, 7 stand-alone infantry regiments, 52 small patrol boats and about 20 older combat aircraft. The material is of Soviet origin. The reserves amount to 100,000 people. To see related acronyms about this country, please check ABBREVIATIONFINDER where you can see that LAO stands for Laos.
Lao’s development has largely depended on military support from Vietnam, including several agreements concluded in 1977. 5,000 Vietnamese soldiers, mainly in building associations, left Laos in 1992. Laos is a member of ASEAN. Defense costs decreased in 1985-2007 from 7.8% to 0.4% of GDP.
Myanmar, Thailand and Laos signed an agreement in April 1999 on a coordinated fight against the production and export of drugs – especially opium.
In August 1999, President Siphandon deposed Finance Minister Kamphoui Keoboualapha and National Bank Director Cheuang Sombounkham. They were made responsible for the drastic fall in the exchange rate of the country’s currency, Kip. The value of this has fallen 500% over the previous 2 years. In the last years of the 1990s, Laos’ economy had deteriorated seriously.
A series of bomb attacks hit the country in 2000-01. According to the government, the backers were the guerrilla Chao Fa and anti-communist groups based abroad. The Chao Fa group is made up of members from the h’mong people and is accused of receiving help from China. However, a number of observers believe that the assaults could also be due to conflicts within the government. In any case, the celebrations were around the 25th anniversary of the December 2000 communist takeover of peace. Laos is one of the 5 countries in the world where the Communist Party remains in power.
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In his opening address to the PPRL Congress in March 2001, President Siphandon acknowledged the failure of administering the country’s fragile economy, but at the same time stated that the party’s goal was to triple per-capita income by 2020. He further stated that the party needed to be strengthened, which has 100,000 members. Congress passed an opinion stating that the party continues its socialist line and “opposes multi-party rule and political pluralism”.
The government intensified the fight against drug trafficking and declared that anyone arrested with over ½ kg of heroin would be sentenced to death. In June 2003, this opportunity was first used by 3 drug dealers.
In October 2001, several European activists were arrested in front of the presidential palace in Vientiane, demonstrating against the arrest of several students the year before during the pro-democracy demonstration. The European Parliament acknowledged the adoption of a resolution which, while not likely to suspend EU aid, but made it dependent on the country’s future political development.
In September 2001, Japan provided a loan for the construction of the Second Friendship Bridge across the Mekong River. The work was started in 2002 and is expected to be completed in 2005.
The conflict with Thailand regarding border crossing in the Mekong River continued in 2002. some islands in the river itself.
At the February 2002 presidential election, Khamtay Siphandon was re-elected. Only one of the 166 candidates was not a member of the PPRL.
In June 2003, three drug traffickers became the first to be sentenced to death after a new law in 2002 allowed the death penalty for drug trafficking.
In July, ministers and delegates from Laos, China, Thailand, Myanmar and India signed a statement pledging to cooperate in the fight against drugs.
In May 2004, a bomb dropped in Vientiane in the Civil Aviation Building. At the attack, the bomber was killed, no one took responsibility and the man could not be identified.
In June 2005, three North Americans were expelled, accused of “interfering with the country’s internal affairs and attempting to obstruct government policy.” They turned out to be members of a California Fact Finding Commission headquartered. According to the Foreign Ministry, they had distorted and blocked the country’s laws and spread arguments against the government. In practice, they had shown tense legs for the government’s resettlement policy towards ethnic minorities, and had urged members of the Hmong people of northern Xieng Khouang province to disrupt public order.
In November 2005, construction of a hydroelectric power plant started in Nam Theun.
82-year-old President Khamtay Siphandone resigned in March 2006 from the post of Communist Party leader and was replaced by his Vice President, Choummaly Sayasone.