The new U.S. ambassador to Laos, Ravic R. Huso, visited VOA headquarters this week for an exclusive interview, during which he discussed US-Lao cooperations and took the opportunity to send greetings to the people of Laos where he had lived as a child.
Mr. Huso is a career diplomat. Prior to joining the State Department, he was a Peace Corps volunteer in southern Senegal and subsequently worked for USAID. At State, he had served as Deputy Director and then Director for Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam Affairs. His foreign posts included Deputy Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Malaysia, Deputy Chief of Mission in Niamey, Niger, and Deputy Chief of Mission in Thailand.
Here are some of Mr. Huso's comments on US-Lao cooperations:
"The US has good cooperation in number of important areas. One of the most important is the humaniratiran effort to achieve the fullest possible accounting of those servicemen and women who were missing in action from the Indochina conflict. Another legacy of the Indochina conflict is the unexploded ordnance that remains in Laos and constitutes a continuing threat to the safety and welfare of the Lao people. So, the United States has worked with the international community and the Lao government to address this problem. Other areas of cooperation include working together to combat narcotics, to provide alternative livelihood to farmers who historically in the past were producing opium. We’ve had great success in this area. The Lao government has had great success in this area."
On military cooperation, the Ambassador says, "We are now in the first stages of exploring what might be in the mutual interest of Laos and the United States. We think that there may be some opportunities that the Lao would like to explore. They have recently sent some senior officials to the United States, to become more familiar with the types of opportunities that might exist. As we move forward, I think it’s important to keep a couple of things in mind. One is that anything we would do with them, with the Lao military, would be in the areas of mutual interest, such as working together on humanitarian assistance, potentially disaster relief. For example, the US military has a great deal of experience in how to deal with pandemic influenza. So, that could be one area where we could cooperate."
On US-Lao cooperation in the counter-narcotics area, Mr. Ravic Huso says: In terms of opium production, the Lao government has done a very, very good job in significantly reducing the acreage that’s under cultivation. A key aspect of that has been to provide alternative livelihoods for the people that have traditionally been opium farmers. And, as I mentioned before, the United States has been very pleased to be able to support those efforts. Regarding trafficking in persons, Laos is not only working with the United States, but also with other countries in the region. As you know, Southeast Asia is a region that is affected by trafficking, in many ways, is a source of people that are being trafficked, a destination in some cases, of people that are being trafficked. So, our objective, in working with the Lao government, is to address, not only the criminal aspects of trafficking, which is to say identify the people responsible for trafficking people, against their will, and holding them accountable, bringing them to justice. But also, it’s very important to deal with the victims of trafficking because there is a significant human cost to trafficking. People are impacted, they are affected by it. And therefore, I think it’s very important for us to work with the Lao government to provide protections to these people, so that the chances that they would be re-trafficked are minimized."
For Lao translation and more of Mr. Huso's interview, please click on our audio files. And please stay tuned for Part 2 of the interview.