Washington — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited countries in the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) in July to promote diplomatic and people-to-people ties.
In remarks at the U.S.-ASEAN Ministerial meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Clinton cited the 35 years of partnership between ASEAN and the United States and welcomed the chance to affirm the strong bond among the nations.
During her groundbreaking trip to Laos, she visited one of the country's oldest and most venerated cultural heritage sites, the temple and museum at Ho Phra Keo. It was the first visit by a U.S. secretary of state to Laos in 57 years.
The Ho Phra Keo temple was built in 1565 by King Setthathirat. Through many centuries, the Lao monarchy used the temple or "wat" as its royal chapel. Today, it is a museum displaying some of the most significant Lao Buddhist sculptures. With many bronze Buddha statues and intricate wall designs and carvings, this temple is a sacred place in Vientiane. The museum receives more than 100,000 visitors each year.
At the Ho Phra Keo temple, Clinton was especially interested in seeing a display of photos that reflected 10 years of cultural preservation in Laos supported by the U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP). Clinton noted the progress made since the first project funded by the AFCP in 2001 and promised continued U.S. cooperation to preserve the cultural heritage of Laos. The U.S. funding for Ho Phra Keo temple in 2005 was spent for the registration and photo documentation of objects in the temple’s collection.
Also at the Ho Phra Keo temple, Clinton announced U.S. support for additional preservation work in Laos. In announcing this initiative from the Ambassadors Fund, “a program near and dear to my heart,” Clinton said, “We will be providing $215,000 in additional preservation work to the iconic Wat Xieng Thong Temple in Luang Prabang.” Her remarks reflected an ongoing commitment to preserving the cultural heritage and traditions of Laos.
Wat Xieng Thong (“Temple of the Golden City”), one of the most important Lao monasteries, remains a significant monument to traditional art, royalty and religion. The more than 20 structures on the grounds include a “sim” (temple hall), shrines, stupas, pavilions and residences, as well as gardens of various flowers, ornamental shrubs and trees.
Citing the great respect that the American people have for Laos’ magnificent cultural heritage, Secretary Clinton also pointed to the importance of exchanges and cultural ties.
In her remarks at the U.S.-ASEAN Ministerial in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Clinton stressed the people-to-people initiatives, saying: “I have to say that the one request I hear consistently as I travel throughout Southeast Asia is that people in this region want more opportunities to interact with Americans and to visit America, particularly young people. And, of course, young people are the majority of the people in the ASEAN nations. So I strongly support this outreach.”
At the ministerial Clinton announced the creation of a U.S.-ASEAN Young Leaders Summit to connect the next generation of leaders. Outlining the progress on an additional program, Clinton said, "This fall, the United States will welcome the first students to Hawaii under the Brunei-U.S. English language initiative." English language capability is directly tied to economic prosperity, as it facilitates international commerce, clear diplomatic communication, scientific exchange and education linkages.
To further amplify the person-to-person experience, she added, "We have also created a pilot program for a new Fulbright-ASEAN exchange to deepen our educational ties."