The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command hosted consultative talks with representatives from the Lao People's Democratic Republic Aug. 12-16.

The biannual negotiations are held to discuss issues related to JPAC's missions in Laos.

During the meeting, U.S. and Lao officials addressed proposals raised during previous talks held in February, agreed upon plans for the next six months of Joint Field Activities in Laos, and discussed initiatives to advance the U.S. accounting mission in Laos.

"Cooperation and a good discussion of issues, I think it is at its peak moment now," said Phoxay Khaikhamphithoune, Director of the Americas Division, Department of Europe and Americas, Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "The people behind this success are the team members and leadership of our organizations that oversee and lead this mission."

The talks marked the final appearance of Khaikhamphithoune, a senior Lao delegation member who has worked alongside the U.S. for 15 years.

"I've been involved with these operations and mission for a long time and I'm going to miss it. Especially every chance I had to go and visit teams and to conduct the missions. I made friends with a lot of people and I'll miss that a lot," said Khaikhamphithoune, who first started working POW/MIA issues in 1992 with JPAC's predecessor organizations, Joint Task Force-Full Accounting and the Central Identification Laboratory-Hawaii.

"There are a lot of important events that happened [during my tenure], but from the beginning to the end I've seen nothing but progress and improvement in operations and our relationship together," Khaikhamphithoune said. "Initially, both governments did not see eye to eye, but now I consider us to be one team with one vision."

But Khaikhamphithoune, who is set to move to a new position at the Lao Embassy in Belgium, hopes that the progress he contributed to for more than a decade will continue to improve.

"There are certain things we [U.S. and Lao officials] don't agree upon, but this won't stop us from continuing to come to agreement and to find common ground," Khaikhamphithoune said. "We have to put any differences away and make progress. Success is in both of our hands to make it better. As I said at these talks, you cannot clap with just one hand.

"I hope that the people who follow me will carry on the legacy of relationship and progress to make it even better than it is now," he said.

The next U.S.-Lao consultative talks are scheduled for February 2008 and will be held in Laos.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16