Dissident groups called on the authorities in Laos Wednesday to rescind a 35-year-old bilateral treaty with Vietnam, claiming that Vietnamese soldiers remain in the country under the pact and should be expelled.
On the 35th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation, the French-based Lao National Council for Democracy and the U.S.-based Lao New Generation Movement said the agreement had robbed Laos of its sovereignty.
The treaty signed on July 18, 1977 provided for the stationing of Vietnamese army troops and advisers in Laos after the end of the Vietnam War.
Eleven years later, the Lao government announced that all the Vietnamese troops had withdrawn from Laos but the dissident groups claim they remained.
"The Vietnamese government has, in fact, flouted all the Lao peace treaties and independence agreements by retaining an army of over 70,000 soldiers in Laos and occupying the border regions by setting many thousands of Vietnamese families to plunder our heritage and exploit our mineral resources," a statement from the Lao National Council for Democracy said.
It also called on the international community to help restore democracy in Laos, a one-party communist state which tolerates almost no opposition and maintains strict control over the media.
The Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation effectively "handed over all sovereignty to Vietnam," said a leader of the Lao New Generation Movement, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Vietnam-Laos ties have blossomed over the years, with Vietnam emerging the second largest investor in the neighboring state, after China, another major ally of Laos.
In Hanoi this week, leaders of Vietnam and Laos agreed to further consolidate and strengthen ties, Vietnamese media reported.
Vietnamese Vice President Nguyen Thi Doan and her Lao counterpart Bounnhang Vorachith, who was on an official visit, signed a pact to continue increasing high-ranking visits and exchanges, promoting cooperation at state, local, and business levels and raising public awareness of the "history of special ties," reports said.
Vietnam held a meeting in Ho Chi Minh City on Tuesday to mark the 35th anniversary of the controversial treaty and the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries.
Le Thanh Hai, a key communist party official in Ho Chih Minh City, said bilateral ties are "an invaluable asset of the two nations."
Reported by RFA's Lao service. Translated by Viengsay Luangkhot and Max Avary. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.