Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 08:49 GMT

The Worst of the Worst 2010 - Laos (Lao People's Democratic Republic)

Publisher Freedom House
Publication Date 3 June 2010
Cite as Freedom House, The Worst of the Worst 2010 - Laos (Lao People's Democratic Republic), 3 June 2010, available at: [accessed 28 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 6,320,000
Capital: Vientiane

Political Rights: 7
Civil Liberties: 6
Status: Not Free

Ten-Year Ratings Timeline for Year under Review
(Political Rights, Civil Liberties, Status)
Year Under Review2000200120022003200420052006200720082009

2009 Key Developments: The Laotian government continued to encourage large-scale foreign investment and development projects in 2009, often at the expense of small farmers and tribal communities. The United States lifted trade restrictions on the country in June despite objections from human rights activists. Also during the year, Laos reached a deal with Britain to repatriate two British citizens facing life in prison for drug smuggling. However, human rights advocates in December voiced concern over the fate of some 4,000 Hmong migrants to be deported by Thai authorities at the request of the Laotian government.

Political Rights: Laos is not an electoral democracy. The 1991 constitution makes the Lao People's Revolutionary Party (LPRP) the sole legal political party and grants it a leading role at all levels of government. The LPRP vets all candidates for election to the rubber-stamp National Assembly, whose 115 members elect the president. Corruption and abuses by government officials are widespread. Official announcements and new laws aimed at curbing corruption are rarely enforced. Government regulation of virtually every facet of life provides corrupt officials with many opportunities to demand bribes.

Civil Liberties: Freedom of the press is severely restricted. Any journalist who criticizes the government or discusses controversial political topics faces legal punishment. The state owns all media, including three newspapers with extremely low circulations and the country's only radio station. Internet access is heavily restricted, and content is censored. Religious freedom is tightly constrained. The government forces Christians to renounce their faith, confiscates their property, and bars them from celebrating Christian holidays. The religious practice of the majority Buddhist population is restricted through the LPRP's control of clergy training and supervision of temples and other religious sites. Academic freedom is not respected. University professors cannot teach or write about democracy, human rights, and other politically sensitive topics. The government severely restricts freedom of assembly. Laws prohibit participation in organizations that engage in demonstrations or public protests, or that in any other way cause "turmoil or social instability." All unions must belong to the official Federation of Lao Trade Unions. The courts are corrupt and controlled by the LPRP. Security forces often illegally detain suspects, and hundreds of political activists have been held for months or years without trial. Poor prison conditions and the use of torture remain serious problems. Discrimination against members of minority tribes is common at many levels. Gender-based discrimination and abuse are widespread. Poverty puts many women at greater risk of exploitation and abuse by the state and society at large, and an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 Laotian women and girls are trafficked each year for prostitution.

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