His Excellency Dr. Xaysomphone Phomvihan, Vice President of the National Assembly, Her Excellency Dr. Sounthone Xayachack, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, honourable representatives from the government Ministries of Lao PDR and the National Assembly, my Ambassadorial colleagues and others from the Diplomatic community, members of the British community, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends.
It is an honour for my wife, Sarah, and I, as well as the whole team at the British Embassy, to welcome you to this, the first celebration of HM The Queen’s Birthday in Lao PDR since we re-opened the Embassy in November last year. As many of you will recall, the UK’s Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the Right Honourable William Hague MP, visited Lao PDR at the time to re-open the Embassy and to attend the ASEM Summit.
The Secretary of State thoroughly enjoyed his visit to Laos. So much so that I’m pleased to say he wanted to send a video message to mark this evening’s event which, with your permission Excellency, I would like to play now before continuing my short speech.
Thank you, Secretary of State.
The relationship between Lao PDR and the UK dates back to the 1950s when diplomatic relations were first established. Since then, our relationship has strengthened and, while resident diplomatic representation in our respective capitals was absent for a number of years, we continued to conduct our relations in a warm and cordial atmosphere. The re-opening of the British Embassy in Vientiane has boosted this friendship. I look forward to the re-opening of the Embassy of the Lao PDR in London in the near future which will boost even further our mutual co-operation.
We share the same ambitions for an effective rules-based international system to promote both security and prosperity around the world and I congratulate the government of the Lao PDR on its recent accession to the WTO. The UK’s foreign policy priorities are focused very tightly around these principles. Our work here in Lao PDR, as elsewhere in the UK’s Diplomatic Network, is designed to pursue these objectives with our international partners.
While it is still early days in the re-energised relationship between our two nations we are already starting to make progress on trade policy issues, education, climate change and the environment, our political dialogue and business opportunities for UK firms. The Foreign Secretary’s visit last November was an important milestone and I would, once again, like to congratulate the government of Lao PDR for its successful hosting of that event and for the warm welcome given to the Foreign Secretary.
And, as you can see around you here tonight, there are many areas in which Britain and its people are making a contribution to development in Lao PDR such as in UXO clearance, child nutrition, health, business and education. I also hope that some of you have been following the blog series on our website entitled “Laos Through My Eyes” which gives a wonderful description of what British people have been doing in Laos over the years.
I am very proud of all of these British contributions and would like to pay tribute to you all this evening.
Tonight’s event is designed to showcase Britain in a number of ways. In this room, you can see many iconic images which highlight Britain’s creativity and innovation. Next door, there is a celebration of sport in Britain including the London Olympics which took place just one year ago. The Wimbledon Tennis Championships commence next Monday and I am sure we will all wish Anne Keothavong, one of Britain’s top tennis players who is of course of Lao heritage, every success this year.
We are also pleased to be able to showcase one of Britain’s best known vehicle manufacturers, Land Rover and I am very grateful to Lao Land Rover for their support this evening.
Finally, we also wanted to give you a flavour of Britain’s world-renowned cuisine and iconic drinks. So do stop by at the various stands in both rooms including our traditional pub, The Naga’s Head, next door.
Once again, a very warm welcome to you all and my particular thanks to His Excellency, Dr. Xaysomphone Phomvihan, Vice President of the National Assembly, Her Excellency Dr. Sounthone Xayachack, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, for your presence this evening. Thank you.