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March 3, 2024

Laos National Assembly approves Cabinet reshuffle

Three ministers have been replaced by Laos’ National Assembly with officials closely connected to new Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone, with the removed ministers appointed as provincial governors instead. 

Santiphab Phonvihane, the son of a former Lao president, will now serve as minister of finance. replacing Bounchom Oubonpaseuth, who will take up the governorship of Savannakhet province. 

Phoxay Sayasone, the son of another former President and current Saravane governor, will take up the Energy and Mine ministry, switching spots with Daovong Phonekeo who become governor of Saravane. 

Finally, Ngampasong Meuangmany will be Minister of Public Works and Transport while his predecessor, Viengsavath Siphandone, the new Prime Minister’s sister, will serve as governor of Luang Namtha. 

The reshuffle came after a proposal from the prime minister, who was appointed by the assembly less than a month ago to replace Phankham Viphavanh.

It’s standard for incoming prime ministers to reshuffle their cabinet, but one Lao intellectual who wanted to remain anonymous for security reasons said that many choose close connections as opposed to experienced officials for high-ranking roles. 

Public reaction to the reshuffle was mixed. Some Lao citizens saw the moves as bureaucratic shifts within a one-party state. Others said the new appointees have relevant experience that they hope will allow them to carry out their roles proficiently. 

Many said that it would be hard to inspect the transparency of their work if needed because of Laos’s one-party system.

“They select their own people,” a villager from Savannakhet told RFA. “One is [former President] Kaysone Phomvihan’s son, he is suitable to help people, but will see the result.”

Another resident from Vientiane municipality said that “they belong to the same group, it’s hard to investigate if corruption happens among them because [the party] can’t be investigated.” 

Speaking from Champassack, the new prime minister’s home province, another villager said that he agreed with the selection, saying that the “vision they have is the reason behind their selection.” 

Translated by Sidney Khotpanya. Edited by Nawar Nemeh and Malcolm Foster.

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