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Lao Communists Name New Leaders


Lao Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, left, welcomes U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, before their meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Vientiane, Laos, Monday, Jan. 25, 2016. Kerry is in Laos on the third leg of his latest round-the-world diplomatic mission, which will also take him to Cambodia and China. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)

Lao Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, left, welcomes U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, before their meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Vientiane, Laos, Monday, Jan. 25, 2016. Kerry is in Laos on the third leg of his latest round-the-world diplomatic mission, which will also take him to Cambodia and China. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)


The Lao Communist Party has announced a change in leadership.

During a weeklong party meeting, Bounnhang Vorachit was named secretary-general. Bounnhang is 78-years-old. He has long-standing ties with Vietnam, dating back to military training and as a student.

The Lao Communist Party also named Foreign Affairs Minister Thongloun Sisoulith to the position of prime minister.

Observers say the retirement of two pro-China members of the party’s leadership may weaken Chinese influence on the country. China has been the largest foreign investor in Laos. Vietnam and Thailand are second and third on the list.

State media said almost 700 delegates attended the communist party meeting in Vientiane. This was the tenth time the party has met since it took power in 1975. The group has more than 200,000 members.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak is a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University in Thailand. He says the new party leaders will not make major policy changes. And he says the government will continue to fail to protect the rights of its citizens.

“The new leadership is more of the same,” he said. “More of the same in terms of repression and constraints on civil society and basic freedoms. We have had some scandals in the recent past over disappearances of civil society activists and human rights violations, so that is expected to be maintained,” he said.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

Ron Corben in Bangkok reported on this story for VOANews.com. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted the report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

constraint – n. something that limits or restricts someone or something (usually plural)

scandal – n. an occurrence in which people are shocked and upset because of behavior that is morally or legally wrong

maintain – v. to cause (something) to exist or continue without changing

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