Australia and the Lao PDR will look to build on their long-standing defence cooperation when Vientiane hosts the first ever visit by an Australian Minister for Defence on 24 August.
Hon Marise Payne is visiting Laos as part of a broader regional visit to South-East Asia to strengthen military ties and cooperation.
Minister Payne will hold bilateral discussions with Lt Gen Chansamone Chanyalath, Minister of National Defence of the Lao PDR, and senior Lao Defence officials.
The Australian Minister will be received by a Guard at the Ministry of National Defence, and lay a wreath at the memorial to commemorate the unknown soldiers who gave their lives in Laos’ struggle for independence.
She will also preside at a ceremony to award the 2017 Australia Awards scholarships in Laos, alongside Minister for Education and Sports, Mrs Sengdeuane Lachanthaboun.
Australian Ambassador John Williams said Minister Payne’s visit was particularly significant, coming in the year our two countries are celebrating 65 years of diplomatic relations.
Australia and the Lao PDR have a unique, long-standing friendship, built on our support for Laos’ socio-economic development, the consistently high quality of Australian business investments here, and our close collaboration as partners in an increasingly dynamic region, Williams said.
Australia’s defence cooperation program in Laos, formally initiated in 1999, has been an important part of our bilateral ties. Our defence ties will only become more important in the years ahead, given the changing strategic environment across the Indo Pacific region, Williams said.
Over the past two decades, over 1,300 Lao military officers have participated in English language training programs run under Australia’s Defence Cooperation Program.
Nearly 120 Lao’s People Army officers have completed short course training at the Defence International Training Centre in Melbourne.
Another 35 LPA officers have completed a range of professional development courses, including the Australian Command Staff College course at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra.
Minister Payne has in recent days visited Singapore and Thailand, and will travel from Vientiane to Hanoi for bilateral consultations in Vietnam.
She has been a Senator in the Australian Federal Parliament since 1997, representing the State of New South Wales.
She has previously served as Minister for Human Services, and was appointed Australia’s first female Minister for Defence in 2015.
Minister Payne will travel to Thailand, Laos and Vietnam on 21-25 August, meeting both the Thai and Vietnamese Prime Ministers and her counterpart Defence Ministers from all three countries, following an earlier visit to Singapore.
Australia enjoys strong and dynamic defence relationships with Singapore, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, reinforced by the 65th anniversary of diplomatic relations with Thailand and Laos, and the 50th anniversary of ASEAN, Minister Payne said.
We will explore opportunities for increased defence engagement activities between our nations, including in maritime security and counter terrorism, share views on the region’s changing dynamics and discuss issues that affect our collective security and prosperity. This regional visit comes at a time when the focus of economic and strategic gravity in the world is shifting towards the Indo-Pacific, and demonstrates Australia’s commitment to be an enduring, engaged and constructive partner in our region.
Source: Lao News Agency