Vietnam’s Ministry of Construction has completed a $111m project to build a National Assembly House for the Laotian parliament, which it presented to its neighbour as a gift.
The Vientiane parliament was built by the Specialised Construction Investment Project Management Board (SPMB) of the ministry, and officially handed over on Saturday.
The scheme, which was begun in 2017, was the first turnkey contract carried out by SPMB outside Vietnam. The board, commenting on its website, said the parliament was "the largest and the most modern building in the country".
The building, which was financed entirely by Vietnam, reflects the close relationship between the two countries’ Communist parties, and signals Vietnam’s desire to prevent Laos from drifting further into China’s orbit.
The Diplomat website notes that China has donated a number of buildings to Laos in recent years, including Lao National Cultural Hall in Vientiane, and work is expected to complete this year on a railway linking Laos with southern China.
China has itself used the gift of civic buildings to curry diplomatic favour in the past. In 2018 it completed a $100m parliament for Zimbabwe (see further reading), and built the headquarters for the African Union in Addis Ababa.
Somphanh Phengkhammy, deputy chairman of the Lao National Assembly and head of the project steering board, said work had continued throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, despite difficulties in supplying labour and materials.
The assembly house, which will also function as a cultural research centre, hosted the first session of the 9th Lao National Assembly on Monday.
The five-storey Assembly House can accommodate up to 1,000 people.
Image: SPMB’s rendering of Laos’ new National Assembly House