11 July 2024

The incoming ASEAN chair, Laos, will hold its foreign ministerial retreat on 28 and 29 January in Luang Prabang, according to informed diplomatic sources.

The retreat will be the first of hundreds of meetings during the Lao chairmanship throughout 2024, after the new chair launches its action plans and deliverables. The retreat, in the country’s former capital, will be chaired by Foreign Minister Saleumxay Kommasith to map out the overall ASEAN agenda.

During the handover ceremony in Jakarta on September 7, Laotian Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone told a press conference that the ASEAN theme will be “ASEAN: Enhancing Connectivity and Sustainability”.

Under Vientiane’s leadership, collective efforts will focus on the ASEAN community and will continue to create opportunities in facing geopolitical and geo-economic challenges and changes.

In addition, Laos will expand ASEAN’s external relations, strengthen ASEAN centrality and unity, as well as develop a regional architecture for stability, peace and development in the ASEAN region.

“We will also boost connectivity, narrow the development gap (among ASEAN countries), support the delivery of carbon neutrality and drive digital transformation in the region,” Siphandone said during his acceptance speech.

Meanwhile, the ASEAN economic ministers will hold their retreat on December 7 and 8, to work out priorities for ASEAN. Laos has expressed readiness to work with other ASEAN members and its partners for the success of its chairmanship.

According to diplomatic sources, the Lao chair will also promote the role of ASEAN culture and the arts for inclusion and sustainability, as well as promoting the roles of women and children and environment cooperation. Furthermore, the chair will boost ASEAN’s overall resilience in its health system in the post pandemic world, to speed up socio-economic recovery.