Laos shares cultural experiences at China-Asean forum

Laos is raising its profile by highlighting its cultural assets on regional and international stages, with Deputy Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism Mr Savankhone Razmountry yesterday sharing experiences and lessons learnt at a regional forum held in China.
The following is the deputy minister’s assessment of the value of culture for Lao society and development.
It is my great honour and pleasure to have been invited to attend both the 3rd China-Asean Information Harbor Forum and China-Asean Information Harbor Forum on Network-Based Cultural Development, which is taking place here in Nanning with the theme “Building Digital Silk Road and Sharing Digital Economy”, from September 12-13.
The Lao PDR delegation offers its sincere congratulations to China for hosting this important event. It is a great opportunity for us to share experiences and lessons learnt through fruitful discussions.

Laos’ Deputy Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr Savankhone Razmountry, addresses the regional forum in China yesterday.

As you are aware, culture plays an important role in the process of national socio-economic development. The development of communities cannot be a success if one neglects one’s own valuable culture. Culture is the fundamental basis for establishing and maintaining a lasting friendly relationship. Culture can be more meaningful in day-to-day living and cannot be separated from human life. As culture is related to economic opportunities, the culture sector offers the opportunity to develop intrinsically local, place-based jobs that foster a connection with and respect for people-to-people links, and the environment.
Laos has two World Heritage Sites: the old town of Luang Prabang, an ancient royal city of the Lane Xang Kingdom since the 14th century, and Vat Phou temple in Champassak province.
Laos also has the Plain of Jars in Xieng Khuang province and other places of historic and cultural interest such as That Luang temple in Vientiane.  
In addition, the music of the khaen, a Lao instrument, was declared part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by the UNESCO at its 12th session held in Republic of Korea last December.
This year Laos has submitted documentation to UNESCO for the Plain of Jars in Xieng Khuang province to be added to the world heritage list after the government approved related documents last year. The site contains more than 1,000 stone vessels, commonly referred to as jars.
The Hin Namno National Protected Area in Khammuan province is scheduled to apply for status as a World Heritage Site and we expect to complete our application for listing in 2020.
The Lao government recognises the importance of culture as a force for social integration and national identity. The contributions of fine art and culture help to strengthen education and socio-economic life. The government has constantly sought to nurture and develop diverse cultural traditions and promote them more effectively in order to bring concrete benefits for poverty reduction among all 49 ethnic groups, because each group has its own oral language, traditions, customs and cultural behaviours.
The government also attaches great importance to ensuring the survival of our cultural heritage and protecting the serenity and beauty of this special country. They hold cultural affairs in high esteem and regularly formulate policies and strategies to preserve, promote and develop our national culture.
The Lao PDR has also actively and regularly participated in various cultural promotion activities held in the region and further afield. At these Laos has promoted its culture through advertisements and information on cultural products, colourful performances, and traditional art forms such as dance.
Regarding the Asean Information Harbor Forum on Network-Based Cultural Development, the Lao PDR as an Asean Member State has actively participated in activities that each of the AMS and dialogue partners of China has held to discuss and share ideas for future cooperation.
In this era of innovative and advanced technology, the number of ICT users has rapidly increased, particularly young people who access information without limitation on their smartphones whenever the internet is connected and social media is allowed.
The Lao government uses the internet to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the administration and provision of services, and recognises it as a powerful tool for driving social and economic development.
At the same time, individuals and small, start-up entrepreneurs have been greatly benefitting from the internet in improving their daily lives and businesses. The e-banking, i-banking, and e-commerce market in Laos is set to take off amid the rapid growth of internet penetration in the region.
The development of e-commerce is one of Laos’ core strategic goals in the coming years. A number of local and foreign businesses in Laos currently advertise their goods and services on the internet.
But the Lao PDR is a developing country and although advanced ICT development sounds very desirable and significant in today’s society, we are still unable to develop advanced applications with colourful content like other countries, especially the People’s Republic of China, because technology develops at a rapid pace and it takes too long to become familiar with the new technology.
More importantly, content sources should be reliable and we need to ensure the regular update of content in order to maintain subscriptions and user consumption. With budget constraints and the technical difficulties mentioned above, the most common channels for the circulation of cultural information in the Lao PDR are e-news websites, TV, radio, newspapers, magazines and so on, as these are easy to use.
Aspects of Lao civilisation from previous centuries through to the present day, including culture, traditions, customs, literature, architecture, fine arts and the performing arts, have been preserved, developed and promoted using ICT, such as drama, cartoons and films, to show and share our culture with global friends via various methods and media platforms. However, not all forms of our valuable heritage are registered and digitally recorded. This is a challenge for us because we lack the funding, hi-tech equipment and human capital needed to undertake this work.
Today, there is very easy access to mobile phone users over the Internet through the third and fourth generation wireless systems. The number of registered Internet users in Laos is increasing rapidly, especially among young people.
Some 36 percent of the Lao population have their own social media addresses, including Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, WeChat and Line, which are widely used on all media communication devices. To regulate information flows, legislation has been enacted, including the Media Law, Law on Prevention and Combating Cyber Crime, the Information, Communication and Technology Law, Telecommunications Law, Data Protection Law, and the Intellectual Property Law.
Regarding Laos-China cooperation, the first Lao satellite was launched in 2015, representing a special gift for Laos. The Laos-China railway is currently under construction and is now over 20 percent complete, with an expected completion date of 2021.
Moreover, infrastructure construction, information technology cooperation, trade services, finance, cross-border e-commerce, information sharing and cultural exchange have been discussed and shared between Asean and China.
I highly value the continuous cooperation between the AMS and China through bilateral, trilateral, quadrilateral and multilateral cooperation.
I strongly supported the China-Asean launch of the Information Harbor Forum in recent years and continue to encourage the forum to further bolster cooperation. I believe that the outcomes will be a big asset for the two parties and pave the way to strengthen connectivity and upgrade bilateral cooperation in economics, trade, culture and other fields, as well as being an important platform for both sides to deepen cooperation towards more win-win outcomes.
China will be a major partner in building infrastructure, sharing information, technical cooperation, business services, and people-to-people contacts. This cooperation framework can help Asean member states including Laos to break through barriers and bridge the “digital gap” that currently exists among members.
I strongly believe that today’s ministerial meeting will provide more opportunities to discuss ways to harness the power of culture to alleviate poverty, create jobs, protect our natural and cultural heritage, turn a new page in this era and provide great opportunities for all participants to share experiences, identify policy recommendations, and promote international understanding for the conservation and development of cultural fields.
Chinese civilisation has developed over many thousands of years and many of China’s cultural sites have become world heritage sites, which are visited by millions of people. Laos also has world heritage sites and if we can link these it would bring in a large amount of income to local communities.
China has at least 53 UNESCO World Heritage listings, ranking the country second in the world. These sites comprise some of China’s most valuable and rich tourism resources and include the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and the Ming Dynasty Tombs.
China also has a rich non-material cultural heritage, with several aspects of its culture inscribed on UNESCO’s list of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
On this occasion, I would like to inform you that the Lao government launched “Visit Laos Year 2018” in November last year. Next year, the governments of Laos and China plan to launch Laos-China Visit Year 2019. I do hope that tourists from the two countries as well as people all around the world will visit our two countries throughout this special year, which will generate more income for local residents and businesspeople.

By Times Reporters
(Latest Update September 14, 2018)

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