Laos. In August, President Siphandone dismissed Khamphoui
Keoboulapha from the post of Deputy Prime Minister and
Minister of Finance. At the same time, the governor of the
central bank, Cheuang Sombounekhanh, was dismissed, and as a
result it was stated that they both misunderstood the
country's economic policy. According to
Countryaah official website, another of the four Deputy Prime
Ministers, Boungnang Volachit, took over the portfolio as
Finance Minister, and Cheuang Sombounekhanh was replaced by
Soukhan Maharaj, who was previously governor of one of the
country's 19 provinces.
During the summer, eight Christian Laotians who had been
imprisoned for a year were accused of causing social divide
through their Bible studies.
In February 1998, the Supreme People's Congress elected
Prime Minister Siphandon as new president. Instead, Sisavat
Keobounphan was appointed new prime minister. Deputy
President Oudom Khattigna died at the age of 69 in December
1999. Amnesty International put pressure on the country to
release its prisoners of conscience. One of these -
Thongsouk Saysangkhi - died in prison despite a request for
release from Amnesty.
Myanmar, Thailand and Laos signed an agreement in April
1999 on a coordinated fight against the production and
export of drugs - especially opium.
In August 1999, President Siphandon deposed Finance
Minister Kamphoui Keoboualapha and National Bank Director
Cheuang Sombounkham. They were made responsible for the
drastic fall in the exchange rate of the country's currency,
Kip. The value of this has fallen 500% over the previous 2
years. In the last years of the 1990s, Laos' economy had
A series of bomb attacks hit the country in 2000-01.
According to the government, the backers were the guerrilla
Chao Fa and anti-communist groups based abroad. The Chao Fa
group is made up of members from the h'mong people and is
accused of receiving help from China. However, a number of
observers believe that the assaults could also be due to
conflicts within the government. In any case, the
celebrations were around the 25th anniversary of the
December 2000 communist takeover of peace. Laos is one of
the 5 countries in the world where the Communist Party
remains in power.
In his opening address to the PPRL Congress in March
2001, President Siphandon acknowledged the failure of
administering the country's fragile economy, but at the same
time stated that the party's goal was to triple per-capita
income by 2020. He further stated that the party needed to
be strengthened, which has 100,000 members. Congress passed
an opinion stating that the party continues its socialist
line and "opposes multi-party rule and political pluralism".
The government intensified the fight against drug
trafficking and declared that anyone arrested with over ½ kg
of heroin would be sentenced to death. In June 2003, this
opportunity was first used by 3 drug dealers.
In October 2001, several European activists were arrested
in front of the presidential palace in Vientiane,
demonstrating against the arrest of several students the
year before during the pro-democracy demonstration. The
European Parliament acknowledged the adoption of a
resolution which, while not likely to suspend EU aid, but
made it dependent on the country's future political
In September 2001, Japan provided a loan for the
construction of the Second Friendship Bridge across the
Mekong River. The work was started in 2002 and is expected
to be completed in 2005.
The conflict with Thailand regarding border crossing in
the Mekong River continued in 2002. some islands in the
At the February 2002 presidential election, Khamtay
Siphandon was re-elected. Only one of the 166 candidates was
not a member of the PPRL.
In June 2003, three drug traffickers became the first to
be sentenced to death after a new law in 2002 allowed the
death penalty for drug trafficking.
In July, ministers and delegates from Laos, China,
Thailand, Myanmar and India signed a statement pledging to
cooperate in the fight against drugs.
In May 2004, a bomb dropped in Vientiane in the Civil
Aviation Building. At the attack, the bomber was killed, no
one took responsibility and the man could not be identified.
In June 2005, three North Americans were expelled,
accused of "interfering with the country's internal affairs
and attempting to obstruct government policy." They turned
out to be members of a California Fact Finding Commission
headquartered. According to the Foreign Ministry, they had
distorted and blocked the country's laws and spread
arguments against the government. In practice, they had
shown tense legs for the government's resettlement policy
towards ethnic minorities, and had urged members of the
Hmong people of northern Xieng Khouang province to disrupt