On July 12, a senior defense official announced that two provinces in Vietnam and Laos are set to launch the first iteration of a border friendship exchange later this month. The move is just one of several measures both countries are carrying out as they commemorate a couple of key anniversaries in their diplomatic relationship.
Though there are various components to the Vietnam-Laos bilateral relationship, border management is a key issue. In their regular meetings, both sides have been engaged in a series of measures designed to both promote border trade while also managing transnational challenges ranging from drug trafficking to migration.
But this year is a particularly significant one for the overall bilateral relationship as both countries are marking the 55th anniversary of the establishment of Vietnam-Laos diplomatic relations as well as the 40th anniversary of signing Vietnam-Laos Treaty of Amity and Cooperation.
As the two sides commemorate these twin anniversaries this year, border issues have unsurprisingly been part of the conversation. Even though the extent of border trade is not nearly as significant as that between Vietnam and China and border disputes are not nearly as contentious as those between Vietnam and Cambodia, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.
At the 26th meeting of the Vietnam and Lao border delegations which took place in Vientiane this January, both sides reviewed the implementation of their border agreements and talked about a series of measures to further boost border management and protection, from upgrading national border markers to promoting public awareness in local communities.
As the rest of the year has gone by, other related activities have also continued to occur at the local level, including between the different provinces bordering both countries. One example surfaced this week when, on July 12, officials from Vietnam’s central province of Thua Thien–Hue and Laos’ southern Salavan province signed an MoU on cooperation in border management at their annual meeting in Hue city on July 12.
As part of that effort, it was announced that both sides will carry out the first Vietnam-Laos border friendship exchange in the northern province of Son La on July 22-24. Nguyen Tien Thang, head of the Political Department under the Border Guard High Command, told a press conference in Vietnam that the event will involve the Border Guard High Command of Vietnam, the Lao Border Guard Department under the Lao General Staff of People’s Army, and the General Department of Police under the Lao Ministry of Public Security, VietNamNet reported Wednesday.
According to him, the exchange will feature a joint patrol from Marker 256 to Marker 266 near the Long Sap border gate, along with a range of other activities including martial art demonstrations, the inauguration of a military medical station, free health check-ups for locals, and a seminar on border defense, anti-crime and socio-economic development at border areas.
As the year progresses, both sides will aim to make other advances in this area as well. They are expected to again take stock of ongoing cooperation on border issues at their 27th annual meeting which will be held in Vietnam in December.