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Lao PDR

The transport of goods between China, Thailand and Laos has been affected by the continually falling level of the Mekong, according to Bokeo provincial authorities on Thursday.

At present only small boats carrying about 50 tonnes or less can journey along the route between the Chinese border to Chiang Saen in Thailand and Bokeo province in Laos due to the low level of the Mekong, Southeast Asia's longest waterway.

The lowest levels recorded in the Mekong in half a century have also affected other downstream nations including Vietnam and Cambodia.

Lao officials say the extremely low water level this year is due to climate change and deforestation, as 35 percent of the water flowing into the Mekong comes from its tributaries.

Read more: Low Mekong affecting goods transport in north

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The European Union has agreed to help Laos with preparations for the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) next year – the largest event ever to be held in Laos with the leaders of more than 50 nations expected to attend.

Director for Asia of the European External Action Service Mr James Moran led a visit by an EU delegation to Laos on Friday, meeting with high-ranking government officials to discuss cooperation in the event.

These included Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Bounkeut Sangsomsak and Standing Deputy Prime Minister Somsavat Lengsavad.

Read more: EU pledges to help Laos host Asia-Europe Meeting

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VIENTIANE - With Pakistan suffering from unprecedented deforestation-driven flooding, are once forested, now denuded Southeast Asian countries the next natural disasters in waiting? The collusion between government, military and illegal loggers largely responsible for Pakistan's humanitarian crisis has taken a similarly severe toll on Southeast Asia's crucial upland forests. 

The widespread destruction of the forests of Malaysia and Indonesia to make way for biofuel, palm-oil, rubber and paper-pulp plantations has been well-documented, and witnessed in the smog that frequently floats over the region from slash-and-burn deforestation. Now, the impact from years of unregulated logging in Laos, often presumed to be one of the last bastions of old forest in the region, is coming into sharper view. 

The fact that the Laotian military maintains both legal and illegal logging operations is an open secret here; what is less known are the details of the profit-sharing agreements the military has with neighboring Vietnam and how these deals have contributed to massive deforestation in recent years. The Vietnamese army is widely believed to be extracting payment in timber along the border for the costs it incurs to help defend Laotian territory. 

Read more: A tree falls in Laos

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