May 27, 2015

Inside Laos: A US Beauty Queen's Quest for Change

By Rajeshni Naidu-Ghelani Business reporter, BBC News, May 15 2015

Lao American Beauty Queen in Laos

More than three decades ago, Amy Chanthaphavong's parents fled their home country of Laos.
Her father had been a fighter pilot in the Laos air force, supporting the Americans in their war on neighbouring Vietnam.

As communists tightened their grip on Laos, he decided it was time to leave.

Fearing punishment from the country's Marxist-ruled administration, he decided it would be too dangerous ever to return to the country of his birth.

But 35 years later, his daughter Amy made a life-changing decision.

She left San Diego, California, for the small South East Asian country of Laos, intent on becoming part of its rapid economic development.

Economic revival

As one of the world's last few remaining communist states, Laos was closed off to much of the world until the 1990s, when reforms started being introduced to tackle severe poverty.

It is still one of the poorest countries in East Asia. But over the last decade its economy has been growing rapidly - by up to 8% a year thanks to the construction of huge hydroelectric dams and a boom in commodity exports.

However, its people remain predominantly poor and unskilled.

Amy's mission is to help change that.

Amy was the first Lao-American woman to win Miss Asian America in 2009 .

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