The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP
The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP

Media release

Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer
Wednesday, 5 July 2000

Diplomatic Appointment: Ambassador to Laos

I have today announced the appointment of Mr Michael Jonathan Thwaites as Australian Ambassador to the Lao People's Democratic Republic. Mr Thwaites will replace Ms Karina Campbell, who has been Ambassador since October 1997. He is expected to take up his position in November 2000.

Australia enjoys a strong reputation in Laos as a long term partner actively engaged in the Mekong region and with expertise directly relevant to Laos' development needs. Australia's bilateral relationship with Laos has been built over more than forty years of unbroken diplomatic ties and supplemented by a high profile program of bilateral aid. The Australianbuilt and funded "Friendship Bridge" linking Laos and Thailand remains a strong symbol of the ongoing Australian commitment to Laos and the region. Laos became a member of the Association of South East Asian Nations, ASEAN, in 1997.

Laos'expressed interest in foreign investment has led a number of Australian firms to pursue opportunities, notably in the mining, telecommunications, construction, energy and education sectors. An agreement on the promotion and protection of investment between Australia and Laos has been in place since 1995. Australia also manages a highly regarded development cooperation program in Laos which is focused on education, health and rural development, and governance, and which amounts to over A$20 million per year.

Mr Thwaites is currently Director of Sea Law, Environmental Law and Antarctic Policy in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. He joined the Department of External Affairs in September 1970 and has subsequently held posts at Australian diplomatic missions in Manila, Washington, Moscow and Ottawa, in the latter two of these as Deputy Head of Mission and Charge d'affaires and as Acting High Commissioner. In Canberra, he has worked in the South

From October 1994 until July 1998, Mr Thwaites was Australian Ambassador to Poland and the Czech Republic, resident in Warsaw, and concurrently Ambassador to Slovakia until April 1997.

Mr Thwaites was bom in Sydney in 1944 and was educated in Western Australia and Victoria. He is a graduate of the Universities of Melbourne (LL.B(Hons)) and Oxford (MA), the Canadian National Defence College and the Australian National University (LL.M), and a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Victoria.

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