The Lao government is reportedly ramping up military operations against Hmong communities in what appears to be an effort to secure land and resources for foreign investment and economic integration projects.
The Mekong’s normal flow can be restored if large volumes of water are consistently and reliably released from Chinese dam reservoirs. However, China’s water policy shows Beijing is unlikely to change its behavior and the worst for the Mekong is yet to come.
Southeast Asia has been hammered by storms in recent weeks, with flooding displacing thousands and destroying homes. In Laos, residents already displaced for the construction of dams now say they face added dangers from severe weather.
ASEAN remains a key player in Southeast Asia’s diplomatic architecture. However, a growing debate on the expulsion of member states may divide the grouping deeply.
A new deal gives China control of Laos’ power grid as the country faces looming debt from hydropower dams and other development projects. But the arrangement risks turning “the battery of Southeast Asia” into “the battery of China.”
The Laotian government lifted its ban on banana plantations last year but health and environmental problems caused by agricultural chemicals persist.
New Myanmar-China and Laos-Cambodia border agreements saw leaders exploit power dynamics to push national interests that risk exacerbating ethnic conflicts and political repression.
Survivors of last year’s dam collapse in Attapeu, Laos are starting to see compensation from the dam’s developers. But it falls short of their needs.
Recent arms deals with Russia offer Laos few gains. Instead, the republic risks becoming a battleground for Russia and China to compete for influence.
As South Korea seeks to diversify trade, it is offering the Laotian economy a “hand up.” But a top-down development model, social and environmental impacts, and weak regulations put Korean investors and local communities at risk.