U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Laos
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Laos, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa582c.html [accessed 19 May 2013]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
LAOSThe Lao People's Democratic Republic (LPDR) is an authoritarian one-party state ruled by the Lao People's Revolutionary Party (LPRP). The judiciary is subject to executive influence. The Ministry of Interior (MOI) remains the main instrument of state control. MOI police maintain order and monitor Lao society and foreign nationals, including foreign officials and diplomats. The degree of surveillance varies by locality, but overall has diminished considerably in recent years. Laos is an extremely poor country. After the LPRP came to power in 1975, at least 350,000 people fled the country to escape the Government's harsh political and economic policies. Since 1986 the Government has largely abandoned its Socialist economic agenda. Economic reforms have moved the country from a moribund, centrally planned system to a growing, market-oriented economy open to foreign investment. There has been a general trend away from the harsh conditions that existed after the LPRP assumed power in 1975, but serious problems remain. Citizens do not have the right to change their government. Even with ongoing economic liberalization, the adoption of a Constitution in 1991, and National Assembly elections in 1993 and 1997, the Government has only slowly eased restrictions on basic freedoms and begun codification of implementing legislation for rights stipulated in the Constitution. Many of the rights provided for in the Constitution have not been codified with implementing legislation. In practice, the Government restricts the freedoms of speech, assembly, and, to a lesser extent, religion, even though they are provided for in the Constitution. Citizens do not have the right to privacy and do not enjoy a free press, although most citizens have ready access to a variety of foreign media. Prison conditions remain harsh, and some societal discrimination against women and minorities persists.