press releases 2012
U.S. Under Secretary of State Visits Laos
June 8, 2012
A U.S. State Department delegation led by Maria Otero, Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, visited Vientiane, Lao P.D.R. from June 7 -8 to review the status U.S.-Lao cooperation, as well as meet with senior Lao government officials, development partners, and members of Lao civil society groups. Under Secretary Otero is the highest ranking U.S. State Department official to visit Lao PDR in seven years, a sign of the growing closeness of the relationship between the two nations.
During her visit, Under Secretary Otero was particularly interested to learn about U.S.-Lao cooperation on programs to support the removal of UXO from Laos and assist UXO victims; programs to help control the production and trafficking of illegal drugs; and programs that promote greater participation in civic life by women and youth.
On her first day in Vientiane, Under Secretary Otero met with Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith and Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Bounkeut Sangsomsack to discuss the many areas of growing bilateral cooperation between the U.S. and Lao PDR, as well as regional issues of mutual interest. During the meeting with Foreign Minister Thongloun, Under Secretary Otero was pleased to announce $9 million in new funding for UXO clearance operations, risk education, and victim assistance.
That same day, Under Secretary Otero visited the UXO training Center outside Vientiane to observe a demonstration of UXO clearance techniques and hand over more than $200,000 worth of vehicles and equipment to support UXO removal. She also visited the COPE Visitor Center and National Rehabilitation Center to observe programs designed to assist UXO victims.
One of Under Secretary Otero’s top priorities is to promote engagement with all segments of Lao society, including women, minorities, and youth. Accordingly, she paid a visit on June 8 to the Lao National Radio broadcasting station in Vientiane where she spoke with youth radio reporters participating in the “Open Hearts, Open Airwaves” Program supported by UNICEF and Lao National Radio. While there, she met with Lao National Radio Director Mr. Sipha Nonglath and sat for an interview with the young reporters.
Other events on Under Secretary Otero’s visit included a roundtable discussion with prominent Lao women to explore challenges and opportunities facing women in Lao PDR, a lunch appointment with representatives of the diplomatic corps and prominent development partners, and a reception at U.S. Ambassador Karen Stewart’s residence.