Lao Prime Minister Phankham Viphavanh has urged the Laotian provinces of Champasak and Attapeu to cooperate with Cambodia’s Stung Treng, Ratanakkiri and Preah Vihear provinces to expand ties between the two countries. Laos also agreed to hold regular meetings with border officials to enhance cooperation.

Phankham made the call while presiding over a May 27 joint meeting also attended by the governors of Stung Treng, Ratanakkiri and Preah Vihear in Khong district of Laos’ Champasak province.

“[Phankham] urged Champasak and Attapeu – the Laotian provinces adjacent to Cambodia – to cooperate with Stung Treng, Ratanakkiri and Preah Vihear to build friendship, solidarity and cooperation between the provinces and villages of the neighbouring nations,” said the Stung Treng Provincial Administration in a May 28 press release.

“The two sides agreed to hold regular meetings and consultations between the border provinces to enhance cooperation and mutual assistance in all areas,” it added.

During the meeting, Phankham extended his thanks to Prime Minister Hun Sen for providing Covid-19 vaccines – and trucks to deliver them – as well as funds to the Lao government and people to help them in their ongoing fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the press release, Phankham expressed the “close and friendly” relationship between the two countries – and in particular the neighbouring provinces – in taking Cambodian-Lao relations to a new level and in building a long-term strategic partnership to strengthen and expand solidarity and cooperation between the two nations in the fields of politics, security, culture and socio-economy.

Preah Vihear Provincial Hall spokeswoman Nuon Vorleak could not be reached for comment, saying she was busy in a meeting, while Ratanakkiri spokesman Moeng Sinath could not be reached on May 29.

In November last year, Ratanakkiri governor Nhem Sam Oeun and Lao ambassador to Cambodia Amphay Kindavong, before the end of their respective mandates, agreed to strengthen the Cambodia-Laos Association.

Phankham, in a meeting with Hun Sen in Japan last month, called for the construction of a bridge between Cambodia and Laos to bring people-to-people contacts between the two countries closer.

Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, said that in general, border provinces tend to have good cooperation between the people and the authorities because travel between them is almost constant. Sometimes Cambodians go to Laos for medical treatment and sometimes Laotians visited the Kingdom for the same purpose, he said, adding that there is a lot of additional trade.

He added that strong cross-border cooperation was useful for solving common problems related to security issues, the smuggling of goods, human trafficking and the fight against drugs.

“If we have a good relationship and solve problems together, it means we have more time for development. When there are problems between us, it costs us time in terms of development,” he told The Post on May 29.