Ruling communists in Laos promote VP as country's new leader
Jan. 22, 2016
BANGKOK (AP) — The ruling communist party of Laos elected a new leader Friday, putting Bounnhang Vorachit in charge of the single-party country as it takes its turn as the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
The Lao state news agency KPL reported that the 10th Congress of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party closed Friday with the selection of Bounnhang, succeeding Choummaly Sayasone, who was party secretary general for 10 years.
Bounnhang, 78, has been the country's vice president since 2006 and previously was prime minister and deputy prime minister.
KPL reported that 685 permanent party members representing the country's more than 268,000 party members nationwide also elected a 77-member Central Committee and approved a new Politiburo, the party's top leadership council.
The leadership handover does not appear to herald major policy changes in the country that is one of Asia's most politically repressive but allows a large measure of free enterprise in its state-led economy. Laos is closely tied to neighboring communist state Vietnam, which is selecting new national leaders at its own party congress concluding next week.
The latest U.S. State Department report on human rights practices, reviewing 2014, called Laos "an authoritarian state," whose most recent legislative election, in 2011 was not free and fair. It also cited arbitrary arrest and detention and infringement on freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and association, as well as on the right to privacy.
Laos is the 2016 chair for ASEAN, which rotates leadership among its member countries annually.