In an exclusive interview with VOA, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs, Matthew P. Daley observes that this is a very dynamic period of history for Southeast Asia where a lot of changes are taking place both within countries and in relationships between countries in the region with each other and with the U.S.
Citing improvement in the relationships between China and Vietnam, and Vietnam and the U.S, he adds that the U.S. hopes to see comparable changes take place in Laos in the years to come.
The U.S also hopes to see greater respects for human rights and a more open political system in Laos, as well as further progress toward a free-market economy. He says a lot is lacking in the area for religious freedom in Laos, and in the treatment of prisoners, especially political prisoners.
He condemns armed attacks on civilians and stresses that the U.S opposes efforts to overthrow the Lao government by force, repeating the U.S position that it regards the current government as the legitimate government of Laos.
Referring to anti-government groups living in the forests, Deputy Assistant Secretary Daley says the government of Laos has to adopt a more open and transparent approach so that the international community can be confident that these people are being treated in accordance with broadly-held international standards. He adds that if that were to happen, the U.S. would be prepared to work with the Lao government through mutually acceptable non-governmental organizations to assist with medical care, with development efforts, and to see that these people become more integrated into the fabrics of Laotian society.
Mr. Daley also says the U.S. commends the government of Laos for its counter-narcotics efforts and its cooperation in helping to achieve the fullest possible accounting of America's POW/MIA's.
Listen to Part I of our interview with Mr. Daley to find out more about U.S. policy approaches toward Laos.