Laos on Thursday announced a new prime minister after the surprise resignation of Bouasone Bouphavanh months before his term was scheduled to end.
"We have a new prime minister," government spokesman Khenthong Nuanthasing told AFP from Laos. "The former prime minister resigned."
Bouasone, 56, who had spent more than four years in office, was replaced by Thongsing Thammavong, president of the communist-dominated National Assembly, Khenthong said.
Thongsing's promotion was approved unanimously by the 101 assembly members present for the vote after Bouasone's departure, he added.
"We did not expect he would resign because he has performed quite well in his function," said Khenthong, adding that Bouasone told deputies he could no longer perform his duties because of "family problems."
The decision to resign was Bouasone's alone, the spokesman said, but he remains a member of the ruling Lao People's Revolutionary Party central committee.
Bouasone would have been eligible for another term when the party's Congress is held early in 2011.
"He can run for another post in the future," even at the next Congress, Khenthong said.
Laos, a rural-based society of about six million is one of Asia's poorest nations and is highly reliant on foreign donors.
Bouasone told a conference in Vietnam earlier this year that his country aims for "no less than" eight percent annual economic growth to 2015.
The country's economy has been expanding at an annual average of seven percent in recent years, and the government aims "to lift the country from underdevelopment by 2020," he said.
Non-governmental organisations this year urged the government to consider slowing the pace and scale of large foreign investment projects which, they said, form the basis of the country's growth strategy.
They expressed concern that the projects often rely on foreign labour, add little value in Laos, and potentially have negative effects on the environment and socio-economic development.