How Miss Minnesota USA Promoted U.S. Business and Instilled Good Will in Laos

Nitaya Panemalaythong, a Lao-American and Miss Minnesota USA 2012, brings smiles to the faces of Lao children in a rural village in Luang Prabang, Laos, January 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

About the Author: Paul Mayer serves as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Vientiane, Laos.

American diplomats meet interesting people every day. It’s one of the things that make our careers so exciting. I’ve met presidents, Olympic gold medalists, and civic activists. In Montreal, Stevie Wonder told me I was cool. And, in Vientiane, I met a beauty pageant winner who helped American public diplomacy efforts in Laos.

This past January, as part of an economic diplomacy initiative, our embassy organized a campaign designed to deepen U.S.-Lao business ties and promote the newly-established Lao chapter of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham). The economy of Laos has emerged as an attractive investment opportunity for American businesses. A number of U.S. companies have already entered the Lao market, but unfortunately operate under structural and cultural disadvantages compared with companies from the region.

We, however, have an unexpected advocate… more »

Disappearance of Lao Civil Society Leader Sombath Somphone

Press Statement
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
January 16, 2013


We are deeply concerned about the well-being of Lao civil society leader Sombath Somphone, who disappeared one month ago. Reports indicate that Mr. Sombath went missing on December 15, 2012 after being stopped at a police checkpoint in the capital city of Vientiane. We call upon the Lao government to pursue a transparent investigation of this incident and to do everything in its power to bring about an immediate and safe return home to his family.

Since receiving his education in the United States, Mr. Sombath has worked tirelessly to promote sustainable development in Laos and he inspired a new generation of young leaders. He founded the Participatory Development Training Center, which trains Lao youth and local government leaders in community development and poverty reduction. His disappearance has generated a tremendous amount of concern from his family, friends and colleagues around the world. We urge his immediate return home and send our thoughts and prayers to his family and loved ones.

In Bhutan, Conserving the Natural Environment and Biodiversity

About the Author: Timothy Neely serves as Environment, Science, Technology and Health Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, India.

Do you know which country’s constitution promises that a minimum of 60 percent its land area will be maintained as forest for all time? Which country’s government pledges to protect, conserve, and improve the pristine environment and safeguard the biodiversity of the country; prevent pollution and ecological degradation; secure ecologically balanced sustainable development while promoting justifiable economic and social development; and ensure a safe and healthy environment? The answer is the Kingdom of Bhutan, a small Himalayan country located between China and India. Bhutan’s use of a “Gross National Happiness” index to measure progress, rather than GDP, is well-known, but fewer people know of the importance that Bhutan attaches to conserving its natural environment and biodiversity.

The Second Asian Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation held in Thimphu, Bhutan… more »

Investing in Security: Program Develops New Generation of Humanitarian Demining Leaders

Major General Walter D. Givhan recognizes participants at the 2012 Senior Managers Course in Explosive Remnants of War and Mine Action at the James Madison University, June 2012. This year, the 17 participants represented 13 different countries, including Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Iraq, Laos, Lebanon, Libya, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Uganda, and Vietnam. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

About the Author: Major General Walter D. “Waldo” Givhan, United States Air Force, currently serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Plans, Programs and Operations in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.

I recently had the privilege of visiting James Madison University to attend the closing ceremony for the 2012 Senior Managers’ Course in Explosive Remnants of War and Mine Action, where I met a select group of individuals serving on the front lines of humanitarian crises and post-conflict environments around the world.

This year, the 17 participants represented 13 different countries, including Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Iraq, Laos, Lebanon, Libya, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Uganda, and Vietnam. These “Senior Managers” are each leaders in their respective national mine action and ERW programs. This diversity the students bring in terms of background and experience is one of the main reasons… more »

Secretary Clinton Meets with Embassy Staff and Their Families

Remarks
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
COPE Center
Vientiane, Laos
July 11, 2012


Well, it is wonderful to be here and especially to be the first Secretary of State since 1955. I am excited by the work that you are doing every day, helping to shape our relationship with Laos. This is a quick first stop for me to demonstrate the high-level commitment that we have to this relationship and our desire to broaden and deepen it. I couldn’t leave without thanking all of you for what you do every single day. I want to thank Ambassador Karen Stewart. Karen and I went to the same college; we’re both Wellesley College alums. This is the third assignment for her in Laos, and I have to tell you that her performance at the Laos Street Jamz festival will go down in history.

I have been now in 102 countries, and I can count on one hand those countries where the head of state or government thanks me for the ambassador we’ve sent. And that has happened today with both the Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister because of Ambassador Stewart’s great devotion to this country, her knowledge of the language and the customs. It’s really making a difference.

I also want to thank the locally employed staff. And I just had a chance to take a picture with them, including our longest-serving locally employed staff for now 36 years, and we are grateful. Please stand. We will give you a round of applause. (Applause.) We could not do our work without you. We are very, very grateful to each and every one of you for being part of this mission. MORE.

Travel Diary: Secretary Clinton Travels to Europe, Asia, and the Middle East

Secretary Clinton boards plane in Beirut, Lebanon, April 26, 2009. [State Department Photo]

More: Trip Page | Interactive Travel Map

On July 6, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton begins an eight-nation trip to France, Japan, Mongolia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Egypt, and Israel. In France, Secretary Clinton will attend the third meeting of the Friends of the Syrian People to consult with her colleagues on steps to increase pressure on the Assad regime and to support UN-Arab League Special Envoy Annan’s efforts to end the violence and facilitate a political transition to a post-Assad Syria. While in Paris, Secretary Clinton will consult with French leaders regarding next steps on Syria as well as on a number of other key areas of global concern. As part of her ongoing consultations… more »

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Travel to France, Japan, Mongolia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Egypt and Israel

Press Statement
Victoria Nuland
Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
July 5, 2012


Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will travel to France, Japan, Mongolia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Egypt and Israel departing Washington, D.C. on July 5.

In Paris on July 6, Secretary Clinton will attend the third meeting of the Friends of the Syrian People. At that meeting, the Secretary will consult with her colleagues on steps to increase pressure on the Assad regime and to support UN-Arab League Special Envoy Annan’s efforts to end the violence and facilitate a political transition to a post-Assad Syria. Secretary Clinton will consult with French leaders regarding next steps on Syria as well as on a number of other key areas of global concern. As part of her ongoing consultations with senior Palestinian and Israeli leaders, the Secretary will also meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss both parties’ efforts to pursue a dialogue and build on President Abbas’ exchange of letters with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Secretary will then travel to Tokyo to attend the July 8 Conference on Afghanistan, where she will reaffirm our enduring commitment to the Afghan people and join the international community in supporting Afghanistan’s development needs for the “transformation decade” to begin in 2015. As part of the mutual commitments made by the international community and Afghanistan at the Bonn conference last December, the Afghan Government in turn will lay out its plan for economic reform and continued steps toward good governance. She will also have discussions with Japanese Government counterparts on bilateral, regional, and global issues of mutual concern. MORE.

Surviving the Peace: New Film Highlights Lingering Challenges in Laos

A Laotian technician prods the ground in Nong Pet Junction, Laos, in search of bomblets and other explosive devices left undetinated from the Indochina War on May 3, 1996. [AP File Photo]

About the Author: David Cavey serves in the Office of Congressional and Public Affairs in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs at the Department of State.

More than thirty-five years after the Vietnam War, Laos continues to struggle with the legacy of unexploded ordnance dropped by U.S. military aircraft seeking to disrupt military supply routes used by North Vietnamese forces. Surviving the Peace, a powerful short film produced by our partners at Mines Advisory Group (MAG), with support from the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA), captures the kind of challenges facing rural families not only in Laos, but in dozens of countries around the world long after conflicts end, and what the United States is doing to help.

The film tells the story of a Lao family coping with the consequences of this… more »

Hmong Returnees: Re-Building Lives in Laos

Ambassador Karen Stewart hands over a symbolic key to Lao government officials in Phonekham, May 14, 2012. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

About the Author: Andrea Doyle serves as a Refugee Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, where she covers regional refugee issues.

Earlier this month, I walked through the marketplace at the Phonekam development village in Laos, with Ambassador Karen Stewart and several colleagues from U.S. Embassy Vientiane. As we observed residents going about their shopping, a young family with two small, well-fed children smiled at the embassy’s delegation before driving off with their purchases on their own motorcycle. An amazing variety of items can be purchased at the market: TVs, nails, flashlights, clothes, shoes, hats, fruit, and more. We spoke to two shopkeepers, who can travel daily by bus to the provincial capital to purchase inventory. Ambassador Stewart noted the increase in livestock — including roosters, chickens, goats, huge pigs and little piglets — for sale at the market, compared with her last visit.

In December 2009, approximately 4,500 Hmong who had sought refuge in Thailand were forcibly… more »

TechCamp Engages Civil Society in Thailand

TechCamp Bangkok participants observe a demonstration at Assumption University in Bangkok, Thailand, March 21, 2012. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

About the Author: Katie Dowd serves in the Office of the Secretary of State.

Home to a thriving technology community, Bangkok was the site of our seventh TechCamp, an interactive program that supports Secretary Clinton’s Civil Society 2.0 initiative. This TechCamp focused on capacity building for more than 50 civil society organizations working in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. Hosted by Assumption University March 20-21, TechCamp Bangkok provided training that helped equip the civil society groups with new knowledge about how to leverage free and low-cost digital tools to strengthen their organization’s missions. The missions of these civil society organizations ranged from combating human trafficking, to election monitoring, to helping support refugees, to environmental protection.

Local technology experts partnered with technologists from around… more »