A United Nations human rights expert is urging Laos to focus less on big, foreign-invested dam and railway contracts and devote more resources to helping its children and the poor.

Philip Alston, the U.N. rapporteur on poverty, said Laos' economy can only thrive if its leaders do a better job of educating and caring for all of its people.

Alson made the remarks in a news conference live streamed from the Laotian capital of Vientiane on Thursday after touring rural Laos, including an area devastated by a dam collapse last year.

He said huge infrastructure projects create too few jobs and too much debt.

A Lao foreign ministry official took issue with the comments, saying Alston's conclusions were based on only a few people and on "misperceptions."