by Sisay Vilaysack
CHAMPASSAK, Laos (Vientiane Times/ANN) - Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith has urged Champassak provincial authorities to develop Bolaven Plateau in Pakxong district as another tourist attraction and to encourage the production of good quality agricultural produce for export.
Mr Thongloun visited Pakxong district on Tuesday and met with local government officials and members of the public to learn about current developments on the Bolaven Plateau. He also advised them to use the land in ways that would yield the greatest benefit, as though Pakxong was a land of gold.
Besides the commercial coffee crop, which sells well in global markets, the protection of natural resources and increased cultivation of other local products for export was highlighted by the prime minister.
Pakxong is the country’s main coffee growing area, located on the Bolaven Plateau at an altitude of 1,300 metres and about 50km from Pakxe, the provincial capital of Champassak.
Mr Thongloun told officials and local residents they should be proud of what they have achieved and what they have today. Pakxong coffee from Bolaven Plateau plantations is very attractive to foreigners and can compete in international markets.
But Pakxong district has potential in other areas of commercial agriculture, including cattle farming, he added.
Mr Thongloun also told meeting participants that Pakxong district was destined to become an important tourist destination, because of its natural beauty and its coffee, fruit, vegetable and flower farms, but these all needed to be properly developed in the best way. The Bolaven Plateau should also create a garden of flowers normally grown in temperate climates, because the climate in the area is suitable. The government has assigned a team from the National Economic Research Institute to study the potential of Pakxong district and identify the main targets for development. The government has signed MOUs with some companies to study the area over a period of 1-2 years. When the study is complete, the government will send a development project proposal to the National Assembly for approval.
Mr Thongloun said that besides Luang Prabang province, Vangvieng in Vientiane province, and Vat Phou and Khonphapheng in Champassak province, the Bolaven Plateau area was an attractive destination for both tourists and foreign investors.
To promote tourism in the area it was important to stop felling trees, protect natural resources, serve locally sourced fresh food, and create home-stays for foreign tourists so they could learn about the area’s traditional lifestyle. Mr Thongloun said he believed Pakxong district would undergo changes in the next 2 or 3 years, but the local government must improve the standard of education for local people, make sure they knew how to grow good quality crops on a commercial basis, and attract sincere investors from Laos and overseas.
At the meeting with Mr Thongloun on Tuesday, Pakxong district Governor Mr Vichit Keobouapha reported on the district’s socio-economic development plan and vision for the future. To date, the district has 107 investment projects worth more than 150 billion kip including 65 run by foreign investors. The district plans to continue to encourage foreign cooperation to attract more support and expand investment projects.