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Asean Affairs    9 August  2011

Asean development spreading to Laos

By  David Swartzemtruber

AseanAffairs     9  August 2011

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In the Asean community, the economy of Laos finishes in the cellar.

The landlocked country bordering the northern border of Thailand with a population of 6.5 million frequently sees its workers migrate to Thailand to seek better wages.

The country, however, is seeing an economic spurt. Laos is expected to hire 7,000 skilled foreign workers for development projects as the country lacks its own human resources, the state-run Vientiane Times reported. The country is run by a communist group.

Many of the projects in the country are directed toward the goal of developing hydroelectric projects to turn Laos into the “battery” of Asean.

Laos is expected to attract 23,000 billion kip (US$2.8 billion) in investment funding to secure GDP growth of 8.3 percent for the 2011-2012 fiscal year, with 50 to 60 percent of the investment to come from the private sector through mining and hydropower projects.

The increasing foreign investment in Laos is driving up the demand for foreign workers as the country can’t provide sufficient labor for the growing mining and hydropower sector, according to the Lao Ministry of Planning and Investment.

Other developments include a Japanese loan of US$23.4 million in aid to finance the expansion of Vientiane's airport in preparation for an Asia-Europe summit next year.

However, the rapid economic development has a darker side with the flourishing of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) that serve as sites for casinos that serve as centers for drugs, prostitution and perhaps pedophilia. A draft report by United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP), World Vision, Child Frontiers and Save the Children indicates that with the with the clampdown on tourism-driven pedophile rackets in neighboring countries, such as Thailand and Cambodia, that Lao children might be the next target for global pedophiles.

A large number of families in Laos are being relocated by rapid state-led development, including the special economic zones. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) continues to support the tax-free SEZs where casinos have flourished at a heavy social cost.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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