Mr. Chairman,

Your Majesty,

Your Royal Highnesses,

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great honour and pleasure to have kindly been invited to the Meeting of the ASEAN Heads of Government and the Heads of Government of Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, held in Bangkok, the beautiful capital city of the Kingdom of Thailand. I should like to take this opportunity to express my sincere congratulations to His Excellency Mr. Banharn Silpa-Archa, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand on his hosting of this Meeting. May I also express my deep appreciation to the Thai Government and people for the warm hospitality and facility extended to our delegation since the moment of its arrival.

Likewise, I would like to bid my salutations to the Heads of Government of the friendly countries attending our historic Meeting.

Mr. Chairman,

In the recent years, due to many factors, the world situation has seen rapid, complex evolution and full of uncertainties. In the meantime, the regional status is, by and large, stable and firm and the pace of economic growth, fast and continuous. This achievement is a result of the shared efforts of ten countries in Southeast Asia in doing away with misunderstanding and confrontation by boosting mutual cooperation among our nations and broadening collaboration with other countries throughout the world for the prosperity of the nations in the region. The initiative to create the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) is another essential endeavour towards the stated goal. These active efforts have contributed to elevating higher and higher the role of Southeast Asia in the international political and economic life. The Lao PDR appreciates the Meeting as of great significance for further enhancing mutual trust, cooperation and interdependence among our ten nations. This is aimed at making the remaining years of this century bring forth the maximum fruits through mutual cooperation and lead our nations to the coming century with vigorous momentum in accordance with the ASEAN Declaration.

Mr. Chairman,

For the span of the past 20 years since the founding of the Lao PDR, our Government has consistently adhered to the foreign policy of peace, independence, friendship and cooperation with various countries, primarily with the neighbouring ones on the basis of the five principles of peaceful co-existence and the UN Charter with the purpose of securing the peaceful external environment for the sake of making our nation increasingly thriving and prosperous. In the recent years, Laos has pursued the policy of renovation, introduced market economy associated with expanded external economic cooperation for national development. As a result, the national economy has sustained the pace of growth at 6-8% p.a., thus ensuring political stability and social order. On the other hand, the Lao PDR has contributed accordingly to her capability to joining hands with her friends in order to realize the lofty goal of making Southeast Asia a region of peace, stability, friendship, cooperation and free of nuclear weapons. Therefore, I take this opportunity to declare that the Lao PDR Government is ready to sign the Treaty on Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone.

We note with elation that since Lao PDR’s accession to the Bali Treaty and admission as an observer of ASEAN in 1992, the cooperative relationships between our country and ASEAN as well as its individual Member Countries have grown in many aspects. Holding firmly to its intention to join ASEAN as previously declared, our Government has been pursuing to gradually create necessary requirements. In this regard, foremost importance has been given to personnel training in English language and other specialities by arranging intensive seminars and sending Lao officials to the ASEAN Secretariat to study ASEAN workings. In addition to this, we have attempted to participate in various ASEAN activities. We would like to thank the ASEAN Member Countries and the ASEAN Secretariat as well as friendly countries and international organizations for their active support and assistance to the Lao PDR in the said undertakings. We do hope that in the present Meeting we will be informed of views of the ASEAN Heads of Government on cooperation with Laos in this juncture. It is found urgent to propose that the ASEAN Secretariat and ASEAN Member Countries send a fact-finding mission to Laos in the near future to hold further detailed discussions with a view to making the Lao PDR’s preparatory process for ASEAN membership move on consistently.

Thank you.