State President Nguyen Xuan Phuc, on the 60th anniversary of Vietnam-Laos relations (1962-2022), said such ties have now become an example of loyalty, pureness, sustainability, and “one of a kind” relations between countries.
Rarely has a country leader made such a heartfelt statement on the relationship between nations, but in this case, there may be no better words to describe the nature of the Vietnam-Laos relations.
Looking back on history, the close ties naturally arise between the two neighboring countries that drink water from the Mekong River, lean against the Truong Son mountain range, known as Sai Phou Louang in Laos, and have many cultural and social similarities.
People from the two countries, especially those living in the border areas, have nurtured a strong bond through their daily lives, calling each other “brothers” and joining hands in the struggle against natural calamities or enemy-inflicted destruction.
“From the close natural and historical connection, both countries shared the same desire for independence and freedom, resulting in the formation of Vietnam Democratic Republic on September 2, 1945, and Lao Issara on October 12, 1945,” Phuc said.
Major victories of the Laos revolution in particular, and the Vietnam-Laos fighting alliance in general, had led to the signing of the International Agreement on the Neutrality of Laos on July 23, 1962, recognizing Laos’ independence and sovereignty.
Two months on, Vietnam and Laos signed an agreement on diplomatic relations on September 5, 1962. “This marked a major milestone in the new development phase of bilateral ties in the modern era and strengthened the fighting alliance in both military and foreign affairs fronts,” Phuc added.
Vietnam’s Great Victory of Spring on April 30, 1975, and the establishment of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic on December 2, 1975, came as a fitting end to the Vietnam-Laos fighting alliance and a logical step.
In the socio-economic development phase, Vietnam and Laos signed the Amity and Cooperation Treaty on July 18, 1977, showcasing both countries’ commitments to cooperation and mutual support in the national construction and sovereignty protection process.
“45 years on, the Treaty has become a valuable asset, serving as a solid legal base for Vietnam and Laos to expand their special friendship and comprehensive cooperation, which is a foundation for both to sign many agreements in various fields from politics, foreign affairs, security, defense to the economy, trade, investment, and education,” Phuc noted.
“Withstanding the test of time, it is evident that without the Vietnam-Laos fighting alliance and the special solidarity, the struggle for independence in each country could not have come to a victorious end, and the subsequent efforts for national defense and construction would not have made significant achievements as today,” he said.
The Vietnam-Laos relations, nurtured by great leaders President Ho Chi Minh, President Kaysone Phomvihane, and President Souphanouvong, the sacrifice, sweat, and blood of generations of leaders, soldiers, and people, are the invaluable assets of the two countries, serving as the cornerstone for each to safeguard national interests and promote shared prosperity, stated Phuc.
As Laos President Kaysone Phomvihane once assessed: “In the history of the world revolution, there have been many clear examples of the noble international spirit of the proletariat, but nowhere and never has there been special, long-term and comprehensive solidarity and alliance in struggle as between Vietnam - Laos.”
On the special relations between Vietnam and Laos, President Ho Chi Minh said: “the friendship is deeper than the Hong Ha (Red) and Cuu Long (Mekong) rivers”, and as President Souphanouvong put it: “Lao-Vietnamese solidarity is taller than the tallest mountain, deeper than the deepest ocean, and more fragrant than the most fragrant flower in the world.”
Last August, both countries witnessed another important milestone in their unique relations, as the Vietnamese President handed over the National Assembly building to Laos during his state visit to the country.
The construction, with an investment capital of nearly US$112 million, was completed in three years since July 2018 and remained the highest-value project to date that the Party, State, and people of Vietnam presented to the Party, State, and people of Laos.
Laos Chairman of National Assembly Saysomphone Phomvihane later said the building is “a symbol of the great friendship, special solidarity, and comprehensive cooperation between Vietnam and Laos on the spirit of mutual affection ‘rice grain bit in half, vegetable stalk broken in half.”
The project handover was even more significant as Vietnam and Laos faced the impacts of the Covid-19 outbreak, with Vietnam coping with the fourth wave of the pandemic, the most complicated, dangerous, and deadly.
However, both sides have overcome challenges and difficulties to ensure the on-time completion of the project before the first session of the Laos 9th National Assembly.
Phomvihane later called the building “the most modern, most harmonious with Laos national identity, the most solid and best investment.”
Despite challenging regional and international situations, such a strong friendship has been on the constant rise, with substantial benefits for each country over the past 60 years.
Defense-security cooperation continues to be a pillar in bilateral relations. Both have maintained close collaboration to ensure each country's political stability and public order. Vietnam and Laos have signed several legal documents to promote the comprehensive development of the Vietnam-Laos border areas and reaffirmed the principle of not allowing foreign forces to use one’s territory against the other.
Cooperation in the economy, culture, and science – technologies have also been strengthened. Vietnam remained the third largest investor in Laos, with over 200 FDI projects worth over $5 billion.
Bilateral trade turnover expanded at a two-digit growth rate. In the first eight months of 2022, the figure stood at over US$1 billion, up 20% year-on-year. Both sides are expected to maintain annual trade turnover growth of at least 10% during the 2021-2025 period.
The recent launch of the Lao-Viet International Port at Vung Ang, Ha Tinh Province, would help Laos, the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia, to develop its maritime economy.
Meanwhile, the telecom joint-venture Unitel, which started operation in 2009, has held the largest share in the Laos market with 57% of total subscribers.
Facing the Covid-19 pandemic, both have provided timely mutual support in terms of finance and healthcare equipment. The Vietnamese Government has provided financial support worth over US$2.65 million and medical equipment worth $2 million, one million Covid-19 vaccine doses, and sent medical staff to Laos at the height of the pandemic outbreak. Meanwhile, Laos Government and business community supported Vietnam with $1.7 million to fight off the pandemic.
In foreign affairs, Vietnam and Laos have been maintaining close communication channels to exchange views on regional and international situations; cooperating in the multilateral framework of the UN, ASEAN, the Asia-Europe Cooperation Forum (ASEM), the Development Triangle of Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam (CLV), the Cambodia-Laos-Myanmar-Vietnam Cooperation (CLMV), the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS), and cooperation mechanisms in the Mekong-subregion.
In April, Secretary of the Hanoi Party Committee Dinh Tien Dung led a high-ranking delegation from Hanoi to visit Vientiane. This was the Hanoi Party chief's first overseas trip since taking office and the first by Hanoi authorities after a long period of disruption due to the Covid-19 pandemic, reflecting the city leader's appreciation and priority to further enhance Hanoi-Vientiane relations and eventually contributing to the Vietnam -Laos ties.
During this visit, the two capitals signed a memorandum of understanding for cooperation in the 2022-2025 period, which serves as the basis to take bilateral relations to a new height.
“This is a major step to form a legal framework for cooperation between Hanoi and Vientiane in the new phase, marking the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations and 45th anniversary of the signing of Vietnam-Laos Amity and Cooperation Treaty,” Dung said during the visit.
Both sides reaffirmed the highest priority given to promoting friendship and cooperation between them amid the ongoing global integration, which has been reflected by strengthening relations in all spheres including economy, healthcare, education, agriculture, defense, and people-to-people diplomacy.
Under the new agreement, Hanoi and Vientiane in the next five years would continue to promote high-level delegations exchange and share experiences in developing e-Government, urban planning and management, and people-to-people links for greater understanding in all fields.
During the talks, the Hanoi leader announced a US$3-million aid for Vientiane to build the headquarters of the Department of Justice and the Procuracy of Vientiane.
Four months later, a high-ranking delegation from Vientiane led by the Secretary of the Party Committee and Chairman of the People’s Council of Vientiane Anouphap Tounalom visited Hanoi. This was also the first high-ranking delegation from a foreign city to Hanoi after the Covid-19 pandemic and marks a new milestone in the relations between the two capitals.
During these meetings, both sides stressed the view that being the capital of their respective countries, cooperation between Hanoi and Vientiane remains a core pillar in Vietnam-Laos relations.
“The two cities should set an example of local-to-local cooperation to reflect the magnitude of Vietnam-Laos relations and expectations from leaders and people of the two countries,” Dung said.
Sharing Dung’s view, Vientiane Party Committee’s Secretary Anouphap Tounalom reaffirmed that regardless of changes in regional and international situations, Vientiane would stand hand in hand with Hanoi in promoting the Vietnam-Laos relations that have been nurtured by generations of leaders and peoples from the two countries.
“Looking back at the history of both countries, we can be proud of this relation,” he asserted.