Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy New Year from Laos

Dear readers, thanks for your support and your comments and/or just reading my blog. Another year in Laos passed by, and pessimistic as I am, it wasn't the best year for Laos. Although the make-up department was quite busy with paving already paved roads and building nice villas for a one-night-stand stay of some very important people, I haven't see much progress for the average people.

As expected, once the (few) representatives form foreign media left the country after the ASEM summit, times for those not always happy were getting tougher. One had to leave, one disappeared. Reasons for the latter are unclear, as fog is.

My lookout for 2013: Neighboring countries will get more influence, while those far away will still waste money for useless projects, while disturbing the market for human ressources by overpaying. We will not see any construcution significantly started on Khouvieng, and I am in doubt about the projects on the Mekong river and the That Luang marsh as well. Big C will still remain in Thailand, so that Lao people will still spend a lot across the bridge.

Anyway, everyone have a happy New Year 2013 (it will be the year of the snake, but she will be inaugurated in February)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Two short stories from Vientiane

My friend Noy is a Meban (maid) in an apartment building, and I got her another job at a foreigner house to clean 3 times a week. Her husband is a painter and a handyman. They do have a simple small house outside Vientiane, one dog, two kids and some chicken. And they had an old cheap pick-up car, that was broken down many times and barely running. Since it is a bit difficult to get the car to their house (its more a walkway then a road), they park the car sometimes on the main street. Three days ago, when they came to the street in the morning, the car was gone. Stolen. It was worth a lot, but for the family its a nightmare. They do have insurance, but only third part liability. They always went by car to the city, dropped the kids at kindergarden and school, Noy at the apartment building, and then her husband went to work, having his equipment (and his co-workers) on the back of the car.
They make enough money to pay for the school for the kids and have enough to eat. But they can't save a lot, if anything. Now, they have to borrow money for a car, but no bank gives them any loan. So they either have to go to a loan shark, or ask family. Lets hope the latter works.


Today I saw a lot of police between the VIS and the small Japanese restaurant. They were even blocking the street for a while. I was think about something bad happend. When I passed by later, the street was open for traffic again, but police were still sitting there, but not doing much. I was thinking about some serious crime, like murder. But when I asked my Lao neighbours, they told me that a house owner could not pay his debt with the bank, so the bank took over the house and later in the afternoon, crews started demolishing it. Sounds like a horror story from a capitalist country.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sombath Somphone still missing - government issues statement

UPDATE 21.12.2012

German Ambassador to Laos Robert von Rimscha issued a statement about Sombaths disappearance in his yearly address to the German community, raising concerns about the case and promising to work on the issue with high priority.

The Lao authorities have issued a statement regarding the disappearance of Sombath Somphone, a well known and respected Lao who works with Patetc and Saonban.

"(KPL) After having received a notice on the mission of Mr. Sombath Somphone and received the CCTV footage on the incidence from his wife, the authorities concerned of the Lao PDR have checked the initial information obtained, and therefore would like to inform as follows:

On 15 December 2012, the traffic police were conducting their routine random checks on cars at the police outpost on Thadeu road in the vicinity of Watnak village, Sisattanak district, Vientiane Capital. According to the CCTV footage, at 6:00 pm the traffic police stopped the Jeep of Mr Sombath in order to check for driving license and car documents as normal procedures. Being stopped, Mr Sombath walked out from his car to the police to present documents. After the police had checked the documents they returned them to Mr Sombath and continued their duty of checking other cars. Then, a man came on a motorbike parked it near Sombath's car and rushed to the police outpost direction. A little while after, a man walked to Sombath's car and was driving it away slowly, according to statement of the Spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the Missing of Mr. Sombath Somphone, on 19 December.

About 10 minutes later, a pickup truck came with hazard lights flashing. The pickup truck stopped near the police outpost. One man entered the pickup truck and shortly after that another person got on and then got off the pickup truck and then got on the vehicle again. There was no sign of these two men being forced while getting on the vehicle and it was not possible to identify who they were. Then the pickup truck went away to an unknown destination.

Following the preliminary assessment of the incidence from the CCTV footage, the authorities concerned viewed that, it may be possible Mr. Sombath has been kidnapped perhaps because of a personal conflict or a conflict in business or some other reasons and at this stage the authorities are not in a position to say exactly what has actually happened, why Mr. Sombath has gone missing and who have been involved in the incidence.

In this connection, the authorities concerned are currently and seriously investigating the incidence in order to find out the truth and whereabouts of Mr Sombath."

Questions still remain why the police did nothing when they witnessed that someone stole the car and Sombath was forced into the car. He certainly would have informed the police officers if he had been kidnapped.

The Video is available on Youtube:

Monday, December 17, 2012

A very kind and brave Lao man has gone missing

Sombath Somphone has gone missing. If you have any information that may help find him, please contact
the US or the French Embassy immedietely. 

Sombath was last seen in Vientiane at 6:00pm on the evening of
Saturday 15th when he was driving home in his jeep. His family and friends have contacted the police, visited hospitals, and contacted Embassies.

Sombath is founder of, but also part of PADETC, a Lao NGO that integrates socially sustainable programs in education, agriculture, micro-finance, handcrafts and community leadership.. There might be a political background in his disappearance. And this would be very sad.

UPDATE: friends posted an ad on Facebook. This is the text:
Who know or have seen this man: his name is Mr. Sombath Somphone, 60 ys old, has white hair. He live at Ban Khok Nin, Sisat ta nak district, Vientiane. He left office (from Ban Nakham) with the green car, he left office on 15th Dec 2012 at 5pm and he was disappeared, if you guys have seen him plz do contact: M.s Phetsamai 22419900, Mr. Vatthana phunkham 23022091, Ms. Somchit phunkham 55669074 and Ms Chanthalangsy 55616651

UPDATE 2: Radio free asia is reporting about it:

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Film festivals in Laos and Cambodia

The Luang Prabang Film Festival is over, and the next has already started: The Cambodian Film Festival. It shows movies in many cinemas (yes, Cambodia has cinemas other than Laos), it is in the capital, all screenings are free. The best Lao movie so far, At The Horizon, will be screen there as well.

It is sometimes good to see whats going on in neighboring countries and maybe learn from this. For example, I still don't understand why the Luang Prabang Film Festival is not in Vientiane, where the film industry is and where the audience is. In Cambodia, people go to the movies because the want to see it. In Luang Prabang, most of the audience are tourists who are there anyway - and last year the screening beside the night market were quite empty.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Swiss NGO director thrown out of Laos for criticism

Read the whole story on RFA

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

World Bank grant vs. drowning in debt

So, just imagine that: you are drowning in debt already, your corruption index is high, your doing business index pretty low. You just signed a deal for a railway that has the value of 80 percent of your yearly GDP. But you need more money, mainly for administration. What you do? Go to the World Bank. They don't care much what your credit ranking is. Once they started a project, they will go on and on, ignoring what happens in between.

Thats the prelude for the good news we received today:

"2012 – The World Bank Board of Executive Directors today approved US$ 4 million in grant financing for the Second Trade Development Facility (TDF-2), co-financed with a Multi Donor Trust Fund of US$ 10 million with contributions from Australia, the European Union, Germany, and Ireland. The grant builds on the progress of the original US$ 7.6 million project, which was approved in 2008. "

What is a bit confusing is the headline:

"Firms, entrepreneurs and employees in Lao PDR to benefit from improved business environment"

Main problems for companies here are actually lack of access to financing, labour law, lack of skilled people, lack of laws and security for your assets.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Animal Rescue Center event

Since I am part of the team for the Animal Rescue Center, expect some more posts here. This one is about our first event. On

DECEMBER 15th, starting from 7pm at Kong Khao restaurant

we want to give people a bit more information about our intention and plans. We also want to raise some fund, that's why we have a donation box and will conduct a small auction with gifts from people and companies we received.

We are looking right now for a cheap house with a huge garden, around Don Dok, where we can set up a temporary shelter. We later want to move all the equipment to a place where we can stay forever (a piece of land we want to purchase, we have someone who pays for it already).

In case you know a small house with some land around it, please let me know.