On May 6, Myanmar’s newly appointed president paid a one-day state visit to Laos, his first foreign trip after taking office in April.
President U Htin Kyaw, who was sworn in as Myanmar’s first civilian president in over a half century following a historic election victory for the country’s opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), went on a one-day goodwill visit at the invitation of his Lao counterpart Bounnhang Vorachitch (See: “Who Will Be Myanmar’s Next President?”). He was accompanied by Myanmar’s first lady Su Su Lwin as well as State Counselor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi.
According to a press release by the Lao foreign ministry, both sides reportedly discussed the state of bilateral ties as well as regional and international issues. Bilaterally, the focus was particularly on trade, investment and tourism, with the two sides agreeing to the resumption of direct flights. Both countries have recently gone through transitions, with Bounnhang recently clinching the post of Laos’ Communist Party chief back in January before being appointed president on April 20 by the National Assembly.
Regionally, they also agreed to deepen economic integration as members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), including through the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) which came into effect last December (See: “ASEAN Creates New Community Under Malaysia’s Chairmanship”). Laos is currently holding the ASEAN chair, which rotates on an annual basis, a regional position that factored into the country being the choice for Htin Kyaw’s first overseas trip.
In addition to a meeting between the presidents at the presidential palace in Vientiane, the trip also included an audience with the Laotian premier as well as visits to key national sites.
Following Htin Kyaw’s visit, Laos also hosted the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting at its former royal capital of Luang Prabang over the weekend. It will also host the foreign ministers meeting in July and the ASEAN summit in September.