Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 July 2014, 09:14 GMT

The Worst of the Worst 2011 - Laos

Publisher Freedom House
Publication Date 1 June 2011
Cite as Freedom House, The Worst of the Worst 2011 - Laos, 1 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e049a48c.html [accessed 23 July 2014]
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: 6,400,000
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 Review2001200220032004200520062007200820092010
Rating7,6,NF7,6,NF7,6,NF7,6,NF7,6,NF7,6,NF7,6,NF7,6,NF7,6,NF7,6NF

2010 Key Developments: Human rights advocates continued to voice concern over the fate of some 4,000 ethnic Hmong migrants who were forcibly returned to Laos by the Thai government in late 2009 and early 2010. Separately, nine of 300 Lao farmers arrested in 2009 for their plans to protest government land seizures remained in custody at the end of 2010.

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, and laws aimed at curbing corruption are rarely enforced. Government regulation of virtually every facet of life provides corrupt officials with ample 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. While very few Lao have access to the internet, its content is not heavily censored because the government lacks the capabilities to monitor and block most web traffic. Religious freedom is tightly constrained. Officials continue to jail Christians or expel them from their villages for proselytizing. The religious practice of the majority Buddhist population is restricted through the LPRP's control of clergy training and its supervision of temples and other religious sites. Academic freedom is not respected. University professors cannot teach or write about democracy, human rights, or other politically sensitive topics. Government surveillance of the population has been scaled back in recent years, but searches without warrants still occur. 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." While Laos is home to domestic nongovernmental welfare and professional groups, they are prohibited from pursuing political agendas and are subject to strict state control. 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; poor prison conditions and the use of torture remain serious problems. Discrimination against members of minority tribes is common at many levels. The Hmong, who fielded a guerrilla army allied with U.S. forces during the Vietnam War, are particularly distrusted by the government and face harsh treatment. All land is owned by the state, though citizens have rights to use it. On some occasions, the government has awarded land to certain citizens with government connections, money, or links to foreign companies. With no fair or robust system to protect land rights or ensure compensation for displacement, development projects often spur public resentment. Gender-based discrimination and abuse are widespread, and thousands of women and girls are trafficked each year for prostitution.

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