Tuesday 26 November, 2002
Laos: open roads, open season?
Laos is an often forgotten corner of South-east Asia. Land-locked, desperately poor - a country which is usually mentioned only with reference to its unwanted distinction of being, per head of population, the most bombed nation on earth. But there are signs that the hitherto reclusive Lao government is seeking to change its image. Major road projects are in progress which will link Laos with southern China, Thailand and Vietnam. In a series of special reports, East Asia Today looks at the incentives and the dangers of the slow process of opening up.
Laos is selling itself as land-linked rather than land-locked. It wants to be a bridge between the economic powerhouses of southern China and Thailand. But will the roads bring in more than Laos is bargaining for?
Laos has been winning the battle against HIV-AIDS, unlike its neighbours. But as the country opens up, its record as one of Asia's AIDS success stories could be at risk.
We report on how Laos is entering the Internet age ... through the unconventional means of pedal-power.
Young people in Laos love boy bands and David Beckham. What do the older generation, who've lived through the rigours of war and isolation, make of it all?
We report how Laos and Americans are drinking from the cup of reconciliation ... and why the cup is filled with gourmet coffee.
The Jhai Foundation is a US-Lao reconciliation project which is bringing pedal-powered computer networks to Laos, and helping Lao farmers to market their coffee. If you'd like to know more, visit www.jhai.org