Khamsane Phengvath went to Japan in early 1975 to study on a scholarship from the Japanese government. Six months later, he became a person without country and money after the Communists took over Laos and Japan cut off his scholarship. For years he went through the hard-ship of surviving on his own, finding jobs to earn his living and studying Japanese.
Khamsane told VOA by phone frrom Japan that life was really tough at that time because of language barrier and the fact that foreigners were not easily accepted in the Japanese society but he made it, and years later when he managed to get into a university, he was lucky to meet an American who provided him a two-year scholarship. He majored in development and tourism.
Khamsane held many jobs before he could save enough money to take a chance at business, setting up an oriental grocery store that went bankrupt because his employees cheated him. Khamsane went back to working all sorts of jobs again. In 1999, he saw a newspaper ad for a Lao interpreter by JICA, Japan's International Cooperation Agency, and that was when his life took a turn for the better.
Since then Khamsane has been working as an interpreter for JICA and many Japanese NGO's, a job he is very happy with because it gives him an opportunity to carry out his ideology, that is to help his homeland in any way he can in its national development efforts. He has gone back to Laos many times with JICA as well as NGO groups, including a trip to northern Laos with an NGO that was providing job training to rural people. Khamsane said, as an interpreter, he had advised the people he worked for as to how to best provide assistance to Laos.
He says job training is most important, adding that Lao people should be trained to do every thing by themselves so that they can become self-sufficient and stop asking for and being dependent on foreign assistance because, he says, if Laos continues to do that it will remain a begger forever.
In his undying love for his motherland, Khamsane has also been trying to promote it to the Japanese people. He has participated in cultural events where he talks about Laos, its people, culture and traditions. In 2001, he accompanied a Japanese TV star on a month-long homestay in Luang Prabang. In 2007, he led a group of Lao students on a TV show to introduce Laos to the audience. Khamsane is the official interpreter for seminars, conferences and training involving Lao delegations. In this capacity, he has met many high-ranking Lao officials, including former Parliament Speaker Samanh Vignaket.
He has set up a website called SabaideeLaos. com where he posts articles about Laos in Japanese. He also plans to post articles in Lao for Lao people to read about Japan. Khamsane who is now a naturalized Japanese says Lao people should know about his adopted country, because Japan is a major aid donor to Laos, providing assistance in many areas including comprehensive rural development, legal laws and others.
Listen to our report for more on our interview with Khamsane Phengvath.