Laos’ President Khamtay Siphandone resigned as chief of the LPRP as the party’s 8th Congress ended, and was replaced by Vice President Choummaly Sayasone. The Congress also elected two new members to the Politburo, and expanded the size of the Central Committee from 53 to 55.
The two new Politburo members are Vice President and Foreign Minister Somsavat Lengsavad and former Central Bank governor Pany Yathotou, who became the first woman to be admitted into the powerful Politburo.
Mr. Choummaly is also expected to replace Mr. Khamtay as President of Laos, when it holds national elections next month.
Meanwhile, Milton Osborne, an expert in Southeast Asia politics at Australia's Lowy Institute for International Policy, says that despite the changes, Laos' leaders continue to exert tight controls on political life and the news media, adding
"They are very secretive still. But we do have a sense that in relation to the changes taking place in the world they are looking to find some way to open up and try and do something to boost their economic prospects."
Osborne says that the Lao government historically has moved cautiously and as a result policies are not likely to change rapidly under the new leadership.
For more details, listen to our Laos Today report.