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The situation of human rights in Laos has often been and remains being recognized as a cause for concern.

The Constitution that was promulgated in 1991 contains most key safeguards for human rights. For example, in Article 8 it makes it clear that Laos is a multiethnic state and is committed to equality between ethnic groups. The Constitution also has provisions for gender equality and freedom of religion, for freedom of speech, press and assembly.[1] However, according to a 2007 report by Amnesty International, "Independent monitoring of returnees and the human rights situation in general was not permitted" and "[f]reedom of expression and association remained strictly controlled."

The policy objectives of both the Lao government and international donors remain focused toward achieving sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction [2], but restrictions on freedom of expression and association are a source of concern [3]. The barring of independent human rights monitors makes an exact appraisal of the situation impossible. In particular, the situation for groups of ethnic Hmong hiding in the jungle remains grave and leads to a steady stream of people taking refuge in neighboring Thailand. The death penalty remains in force, although no executions have been reported since 1989.[4]

The U.S. State Department reports on human rights around the world declare that most Lao trials in 2003 were little more than pro forma examinations of the accused, with a verdict having already been reached. The State Department indicated that in some instances police administratively overruled court decisions, at times detaining a defendant exonerated by the court, in violation of the law. Moreover, while Lao law prohibits torture, members of the security forces reportedly subjected prisoners to torture and other abuses. A significant issue in human rights in Laos is the presence of anti-government rebels, mainly of the Hmong ethnic minority, who have reportedly been harshly treated by the Lao government. In its 2006 report the State Department mentions that "The government's overall human rights record worsened during the year." For more details see the report (link given below under "see also").


Death Penalty

Between 2003 and 2009, at least 39 people were sentenced to death.

Individual cases

Two former high-ranking government officials whose imprisonment for expressing dissident political views had been much publicized by international human rights groups were released in October 2004.[5] A third dissident sentenced along with them died in prison in 1998. The three men had been arrested in 1990 for expressing concern about government policies and advocating economic and political reforms.[6]

In 2004, a Lao Hmong refugee photographed and then smuggled video footage out of Laos of an alleged incident in which Lao government troops raped and murdered four young Hmong girls and one boy, then mutilated their bodies [1]. He denies claims by the Lao government that the video was a fabrication.


See also



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