Vietnam has become the leading foreign investor in Laos , taking over the top position from China and Thailand , according to a newsletter issued by the Lao Ministry of Planning and Investment's Investment Promotion Department.

Vietnamese firms invested in 252 projects in Laos in the decade between 2000 and 2010, worth a total of about 2.77 billion USD and putting Vietnam ahead in the country's foreign investor rankings for the first time in a decade, the newsletter said.

Chinese firms have invested in 397 projects worth about 2.71 billion USD over the past decade, putting them in second place, while Thailand invested in 276 projects worth 2.68 billion USD.

In recent years, Vietnamese firms have embarked on a number of mining and hydropower projects in Laos , causing investment by the country to increase rapidly.

Laos amended and promulgated its Law on Foreign Investment Promotion in early 2010 aiming to attract more foreign firms to non-resources sectors. The law offers a number of investment incentives including tax breaks and the right to own residential land in Laos .

The law also created a one-stop service for foreign firms seeking investment licences in Laos and accelerated the process of approval for investment proposals.

The surge in investment also followed an agreement between Laos and Vietnam to boost bilateral trade to 1 billion USD by 2010, 2 billion USD by 2015, and 5 billion USD by 2020./.