VIENTIANE, 26 August 2020: Japan and Laos inked an agreement at the weekend that will allow expatriates and long-stay residents to resume travel between the two countries as early as September.
Lao and Japanese travellers will still need to comply with a stay-home notice for 14 days after arriving and will need to show a negative Covid-19 test.
The plan was agreed by Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and his Laotian counterpart Saleumxay Kommasith during their talks in Vientiane, according to the Japanese government and reported by Nikkei.
In addition to the reopening of borders for long-term residents, they agreed to speed up coordination through diplomatic channels in order to reboot business trips.
Travellers will need to comply with Covid-19 requirements, such as having adequate health insurance to cover the trip duration.
Laos has a relatively low number of confirmed coronavirus cases and is one of 16 countries that Japan has opened up a dialogue to reduce restrictions.
Japan currently bans entries by foreign nationals from 146 countries and regions in principle.
Motegi’s was on a four-nation tour that also included Papua New Guinea, Cambodia and Myanmar last week.
Japan is stepping up its involvement in infrastructure development in the countries along the Mekong River as China expands its clout in the region.
Meanwhile, on Monday, leaders of the Mekong countries vowed to work together with China to step up the Lancang-Mekong cooperation.
The third Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) leaders’ meeting was held via video link on Monday.
Initiated by China, the LMC consists of six countries, namely China, Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.
Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith said thanks to the sincere and close partnership among the six countries noting that the LMC has achieved tangible results over the past four years and more.
Thanking the Chinese government for attaching great importance to this cooperation mechanism, which has played a positive role in promoting Lancang-Mekong cooperation, the prime minister said Laos agrees to China’s proposal for the Lancang-Mekong sub-regional mechanism to strengthen cooperation with other sub-regional mechanisms.
Cambodian prime minister, Hun Sen said as significant grain producers, the five Mekong countries urgently need to strengthen cooperation with China in food security and food trade.
Cambodia will continue to push forward Lancang-Mekong cooperation with other parties firmly, and looks forward to working with other members of the LMC to build a community with a shared future for Lancang-Mekong region, Hun Sen added.
Noting the six LMC member states are linked by mountains and rivers, share similar cultures and enjoy profound friendship, Myanmar President U Win Myint said Myanmar appreciates China’s rapid and comprehensive control of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The president said he hopes that the Mekong countries will work together to bring the pandemic under control at an early date and promote rapid economic and social recovery through solidarity and cooperation.
Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said Thailand also supports better cooperation among the countries of upstream, midstream and downstream Mekong River, so as to benefit the nations and peoples along the river.
He added Thailand is willing to enhance cooperation with China in vaccine research and development, medical workers capability buildup as well as other fields.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said the Lancang-Mekong countries had provided each other with assistance, solidarity and coordination in jointly responding to the pandemic.
Although it is not on currently on the group’s agenda, the Lancang-Mekong cooperation is now likely to look at how to speed up the recovery of the region’s tourism industry and efforts to reopen borders in a safe manner.