I complained before, and I will not rest to rant about these fires in Vientiane. The Lao capital is already a quite dusty and dirty city, but the fires (mainly organic waste like leafs, but always mixed with some plastic parts) make it even worst. Although there is a garbage collection service, people burn like crazy. Why? Because they always did it.
And here comes one of the biggest problems Laos is facing: the refusal of change. People still like to excuse themselfs with referring to Lao tradition, culture and education. Change is only possible if there are huge benefits. Like having a mobile phone - people had no problem at all to switch to a mobile phone from landlines in short time. Or using a motobike instead of a buffalo.
Not burning trash means paying for garbage collection (what in the city they have to do anyway), but also to get rid of it in a different way.
First, for Lao people isn't a different way available. At least in their mind (beside a undeveloped neighboring plot that can be turned instantly into a waste dump site).
Composting? Not known, and more important, not taught. And there again is the education system. In some textbook it is actually taught not to burn your organic waste, but childs cant cope with their parents opinions when it comes to changes.
So change in education doesn't mean writing something nice in the textpooks of primary school students. Education - in particular in developing countries - needs to be done in all segments of society.
A government that is able to give security advice for important events like the ASEM summit down to village level has already the tool and channels for communication.
If for example the village could fine those who start fires and the fine is later used for improvments everyone on the village is benefiting from, there would be an incentive to report violations.
But maybe only when the last Laotion died of cancer or respiratory diseases, people will understand that not every tradition is something you want to keep.