British Ambassador to Laos, Philip Malone, welcomed around 400 guests to his residence in Ban Phonexay to celebrate HM Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday, which British Embassies use as the United Kingdom’s National Day. This is the second time the UK has hosted a Queen’s Birthday Party in Laos since the reopening of the Embassy in late 2012. With the reclaiming of the British Ambassador’s Residence, another piece in the puzzle of the renewed British diplomatic presence in Laos has fallen into place.
Guests of honour at the event were Minister for Planning and Investment Mr Somdy Douangdy and Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Madame Sounthone Xayachack. Ambassador Malone also paid tribute to Ambassador-designate Sayakane Sisouvong, who is about to leave for London to take up his position as the first Lao Ambassador to the UK in almost 30 years. In his speech, Ambassador Malone referred to the reopening of the Lao Embassy in London as the best illustration of the growth and increasing strength of bilateral relations between the two countries.
Ambassador Malone talked about increasing bilateral trade, political dialogue, educational links, increase in tourism and cooperation in the field of security, stating:
The UK/Lao relationship is in good shape and has become deeper and wider over the last year. Our political dialogue has developed and we have agreed to hold regular consultations in a structured format between our respective Foreign Ministries. This will become increasingly important over the next year as the ASEAN Economic Community takes shape and Laos assumes the Chair of ASEAN in 2016 against a backdrop of increasing trade and security challenges in South East Asia. Along with our EU and other international partners, we would like to work together with Laos to help make these significant events as successful as possible.
Ambassador Malone also expressed his condolences following the tragic plane crash on 17 May.
The programme continued with a video message by Foreign Secretary William Hague, affirming the UK’s commitment in building new partnerships within Southeast Asia. The UK is one of the few European countries represented in every ASEAN member state.
After the traditional toast and the cutting of the cake, decorated with a Union Jack flag, the guests had the opportunity to look at exhibitions displaying the work of the Embassy, British NGOs Mines Advisory Group and mental health charity Basic Needs as well as an “Education Corner” promoting English language study opportunities and developing education links between the UK and Laos. Guest could also take their photo in front of a London skyline, participate in a FIFA Brazil World Cup penalty shootout competition in the garden hosted by the Lao English Premier League Fan Club Association, and sample British food and drinks supplied by Mercure Hotel, Carlsberg, Beerlao and Bruntys Cider, including “shaken but not stirred” martinis at a James Bond-themed 007 Cocktail Bar. RMA Group also participated, showcasing their Range Rover, Land Rover and new Jaguar models for guests to view.