Posts tagged ‘Asia’

June 28, 2014

Effects of Laos dam project to be revealed

 

Laos takes ‘courteous’ approach to next Mekong dam project, agrees to consult before work starts

Reuters

June 28, 2014

Updated 2 hours 31 minutes ago

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-06-28/laos-dam/5557196

Fishing at rapids in the Siphandone area of the Mekong River in Laos

Fishing at rapids in Siphandone area, site of proposed Don Sahong hydro-electric dam.  Photo: International Rivers

Laos has agreed to consult its neighbours before starting construction of a second controversial dam on the Mekong River.

It’s already going ahead with the much bigger Xayaburi dam to supply power to China, despite opposition from Vietnam and Cambodia.

Agreement to allow environmental assessments and for a formal consultation process on the proposed Don Sahong dam was reached at a meeting of the Mekong River Commission in Bangkok.

The commission comprises Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand.

Laos accepted environmental and other studies for the Xayaburi dam after pressure from its neighbours, but went ahead with construction even while they were being conducted.

But this time Vientiane has given an assurance work will not start during the six-month consultation process, describing the move as a “courtesy”.

The Don Sahong project is the second of 11 hydroelectric dams planned for the Mekong mainstream, which has raised concerns about the impact on the environment and livelihoods of millions of people.

It will generate 260 megawatts of electricity, mainly for export to Thailand and Cambodia compared with Xayaburi’s 1,260 megawatts, around 95 percent of which will go to Thailand.

The environmental group International Rivers is among those to have welcomed the decision.

But it says further action is needed “to ensure that the rapid progress of dam building on the Mekong … does not go unchecked”.

Officials say recommendations resulting from the studies of the Don Sahong project would not be binding on Laos.

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Effects of Laos dam project to be revealed

Posted on 27 June 2014

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://wwf.panda.org/?224398/Effects-of-Laos-dam-project-to-be-revealed

Two Mekong Irrawaddy dolphins spotted at Tbong Kla deep pool
© WWF- Cambodia/ Gerad Ryan

WWF welcomes the Lao Government’s decision to have the Don Sahong hydropower project undergo a formal consultation process, a decision likely to delay construction of the project.

The consultation process requires Laos to hold inter-governmental consultations before proceeding with the dam, and conduct and share studies on the project’s environmental and the social impacts. The process will take at least six months to complete.

“Laos is now promising to do what they already signed up to under the Mekong agreement, and should have done months ago” said Marc Goichot, WWF-Greater Mekong’s lead on sustainable hydropower. “Their decision to consult on the Don Sahong project, and share critical details about the project’s impacts, comes after intense pressure from neighbouring countries. It is critical that pressure is maintained to ensure Laos delivers on their promise.”

In September last year, Laos announced its decision to proceed with the Don Sahong dam, bypassing the Mekong River Commision’s (MRC) consultation process.

The much-criticised project was discussed at the June 26-27 meeting of the MRC – an inter-governmental agency made up of representatives from the four Lower Mekong nations — Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.

The Don Sahong dam threatens the Mekong’s critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphins and will block the only channel available for dry-season fish migration, putting the world’s largest inland fishery at risk. Close to 200,000 people have signed WWF’s petition calling on the dam builder, Mega First, to pull out of the project.

“We thank people around the world who signed the WWF’s petition to stop the Don Sahong dam,” added Goichot. “Mega First would do well to listen to the growing voices of opposition to this disastrous project and reconsider their engagement.”

The Don Sahong dam is the second dam on the Lower Mekong mainstem, following the controversial Xayaburi dam that Laos has begun constructing despite opposition from neighbouring Cambodia and Vietnam.

“The Mekong River Commission’s joint decision-making process was effectively broken in 2012 when Laos decided unilaterally to proceed with Xayaburi dam, against the express wishes of Vietnam and Cambodia,” added Goichot.

“There is currently little faith in the MRC’s process to ensure joint decisions are made for the benefit of all Mekong nations. If Laos fails to be held to account, the MRC will soon lose its legitimacy and 60 million people living in the Mekong basin will suffer.”

Crowd of children with Pra or River catfish (Pangasianodon hypophthalmus). River catfish are closely related to the Mekong giant catfish (Pangasianodon gigas), a critically endangered Mekong endemic specieis. The Mekong giant catfish migrates from the Tonle Sap Lake to the Mekong River at the end of the rainy season each year and a dam like Don Sahong would block their migration.
© Zeb Hogan / WWF-Canon

 

 

June 24, 2014

Laos stuggles to meet vaccin goals

Steve Finch, Vientiane, Laos

June 23, 2014

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.cmaj.ca/site/earlyreleases/23june14_Laos-struggles-to-meet-vaccine-goals.xhtml

Vientiane, Laos has one of the highest economic growth rates in the region in recent years – about eight percent — but it also has a budget shortfall. That means many state workers including doctors and nurses also haven’t been paid in months.

Amid the ongoing fiscal crisis, aid workers were concerned the government wouldn’t meet a sharply rising financial commitment to fund patchy, but improving immunization coverage. In the absence of a local commitment, there was concern international donors would cry foul, potentially threatening the country’s vaccination program.

Then on May 12, UNICEF reported that Laos had deposited the requisite $530 000, confirming the landlocked Southeast Asian state’s small commitment to the program, which totaled US$7.9 million in 2014. The government’s commitment has placated foreign donors, guaranteeing coverage for the majority of the country’s nearly seven million people.

“In light of the fiscal situation, it is encouraging that the government of Laos is continuing to commit its financial resources to high impact and life-saving interventions for children, such as immunization,” said Julia Rees, acting head of UNICEF’s Laos office, the procurer of vaccines for the country.

In at least one province, local authorities had already asked an international health nongovernmental organization to help fund immunization efforts.

Dr. Soulivanh Pholsena, director of foreign relations at the Laos Ministry of Health, did not respond to questions on the country’s vaccination program.

Laos aims to graduate from least developed country status by 2020 — the first country in the world to state such an ambition — which will mean lowering donor funding. To that aim, the government has been asked to contribute sharply rising annual payments towards routine vaccines. It started funding them in 2012 with a payment of just $22 400.

“Over time, countries take on an increasing share of vaccine costs so that — when the time is right — they are ready to assume the full costs of financing their vaccine programs,” said Rob Kelly, a spokesman of GAVI Alliance, which has disbursed US$19.3 million since 2000 as one of the biggest funders of immunization in Laos.

Although a new real-time, digital vaccine supply system that tracks cold storage and delivery to patients was introduced this year and major progress has been made recently, many people in remote areas still do not receive routine vaccinations.

Laos has increased coverage for measles from just 40% of the population in 2007 to 82% last year, according to the national statistics bureau. But in four provinces, still less than a quarter of babies at the critical age of 12 to 23 months are immunized against the disease.

While the mortality rate for under-fives has reduced much faster than expected, studies by the University of Washington this month did not include Laos on a list of countries expected to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goal for reducing child mortality.

Viorica Berdaga, head of health and nutrition at UNICEF Laos, said there was still every chance of reducing under-five deaths by two-thirds to meet MDG4 in time for next year.

“To maintain this pace the government of Laos should continue to increase its resources for the delivery of child survival interventions to those who are hardest to reach,” she said.

DOI:10.1503/cmaj.109-4819

June 13, 2014

SuperFood for a thousand days – UNICEF helps fight malnutrition in Laos

ABC - Radio Australia

 

SuperFood for a thousand days – UNICEF helps fight malnutrition in Laos

Updated: 13 June 2014, 13:09 AEST

Humanitarian agency UNICEF, in partnership with global mining group MMG, is addressing children’s malnutrition in one of the region’s poorest countries.

The ‘1000 Day Project’ in Laos focuses on three provinces, distributing millions of sachets that contain micronutrients which can be mixed into children’s food.

The two-pronged exercise is aimed at babies and toddlers – the first thousand days of their lives.

Image: Laos ‘SuperKid’ nutrient sachets (Credit: Bree Fitzgerald, UNICEF)

Presenter: Sen Lam

Speaker: Viorica Berdaga, Chief of Health and Nutrition for UNICEF Laos

BERDAGA: The 1,000 Day Project is a corporate social responsibility programme of MMG Limited, where we were trying to identify jointly with the government of Laos PDR an appropriate solution for addressing very high level of malnutrition in young children in Laos.
It was about 44 percent of its children being stunted or too short for their age and they are also suffering from micro-nutrient deficiency or vitamin and mineral deficiencies because of inadequacy of their diet, they’re poor in vitamins and minerals and as many as 64 percent of children are under 2 years of age have anaemia and other micronutrient deficiencies in Laos.
We identified home fortification, with multiple nutrient powder, which is a mineral and vitamin powder that can be added to child’s meal and which can satisfy the daily needs of children in vitamins and minerals. One gram of powder of vitamin and mineral powder contains 15 vitamins and minerals and they address the daily needs of young children in vitamins and minerals.
LAM: And this is a 2 year programme. What about the longer term, can the mothers afford supplements in a country that’s as poor as Laos?
BERDAGA: I wanted to say that this programme actually is using or testing two delivery channels, so one delivery channel is actually through public health system and it’s a free distribution of micronutrient powder through the health system in Laos PDR.
These free distributions target very young children, from 6 to 23 months old and currently, it’s being tested in only three provinces as you main know and the other channel is actually social marketing and use of private sector to sell the micronutrient powders to those who can afford. It’s quite an affordable intervention. So just to say that we are looking at two different models, free distribution and market-based distribution and over the one-year-and-a-half period, we will be learning, together with our partners in the Ministry with Population Services International, with other private sector partners adjusting the models, accessing the course, the capacity to expand it to other provinces in Laos.
LAM: But where the market-based approach is concerned, would the supplements be subsidised in any way?
BERDAGA: For now, the sachets are being sold at their current price. Child care givers of families are willing to pay even more than the current price of the sachets. It’s like three cents a sachet. But for those who cannot afford that, there will be a free distribution.
LAM: So did UNICEF choose Laos as a country to be in partnership with the MMG Group, because the group has a commercial presence there?
BERDAGA: Yes, that’s right. Laos government, they have identified mining as one of their major economic development activities. So from UNICEF side, we were looking for partners that are interested in the longer term development of the country and also working with those partners to support and address development issues that affect children.
In fact, the partnership with MMG also helped educate mothers, families and care givers on how to appropriately feed and care for their young children.
Because in terms of sustainability of solution to address malnutrition in Laos PDR just giving micronutrient powder is not a longer term sustainable solution for the country, but it just immediate medium term measure to help children grow and develop to their full potential.
So we are also trying to work on their dietary practices and on hygiene and sanitation practices, because this has often an important role and contributes to very high level of malnutrition in Laos.
But MMG works in many other areas in Laos PDR with other partners and helps communities, especially communities around its mine, to implement a number of projects in different areas, livelihoods and water sanitation, infrastructure.
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UNICEF, MMG partnership aims to improve child nutrition in Laos

First posted: Fri 13, Jun 2014, 11:14am AEST

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-06-13/laos-project-to-improve-children-nutrition/5521182

Photo: The 1,000 Day Project aims to improve nutrition in a crucial phase of childhood development. (UNICEF: Bree Fitzgerald)

woA partnership between the UN Children’s Fund and global mining group MMG is aiming to address malnutrition in Laos, one of the region’s poorest countries.

Malnutrition contributes to over one-third of child deaths globally and affects more than 40 per cent of Lao children under five years old, according to experts at UNICEF.

The ‘1000 Day Project’ focuses on the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, a crucial phase of childhood development.

The program will distribute four million micronutrient sachets – branded Superkid – containing essential nutrients to over 180,000 families.

The sachets can be mixed into children’s food to prevent malnutrition, anaemia and similar illnesses.

The Lao Women’s Union and Ministry of Health will work closely with community volunteers to distribute the sachets in Savannakhet, Saravane, and Attapeu provinces.

Viorica Berdaga, UNICEF’s chief of health and nutrition in Laos, told Asia Pacific the micronutrient sachets can satisfy the daily needs of children.

“As many as 64 per cent of children under two years of age have anaemia and other micronutrient deficiencies in Laos,” she said.

“One gram of powder contains 15 vitamins and minerals and they address the daily needs of young children in vitamins and minerals.”

Dr Berdaga says the two-year program is an “affordable intervention” to help fight malnutrition in Laos.

“This free distribution targets very young children – from six to 23 months old – and currently, it’s being tested in only three provinces,” she said.

“We are looking at two different models: Free distribution and market-based distribution.

“We will be learning, together with our partners in the Ministry with Population Services International, with other private sector partners, adjusting the models, accessing the capacity to expand it to other provinces in Laos.”

MMG Limited, which operates the MMG LXML Sepon mine in Savannakhet, has pledged $1.5 million to support the project.

“Our belief – we mine for progress – is reinforced by our investment in communities,” MMG executive general manager Troy Hey said in a statement.

In the first year, the micronutrient sachets will be distributed for free to families with children under two years of age, MMG said.

The company says additional sachets will be subsidised for families with children under five years of age.

June 11, 2014

Laos: No Progress on Rights

Urgently End Disappearances, Systematic Suppression of Basic Freedoms

June 10, 2014

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/06/10/laos-no-progress-rights

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This government brooks no dissent from its people, and uses rights-abusing laws and long prison terms to prevent any challenge to its power. Lao people fear their government because they know officials can act with near total impunity.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director

CN_Div_333(Bangkok) – The government of Laos has failed to address the country’s systemic human rights problems, Human Rights Watch said today in a critique of Lao’s human rights record submitted to the United Nations. Laos will appear for the country’s second Universal Periodic Review in October 2014 at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Human Rights Watch highlighted several human rights issues that deserve international attention, including severe restrictions on fundamental liberties, absence of labor rights, and detention of suspected drug users without charge in abusive drug centers. Of particular concern is the forced disappearance of civil society leader Sombath Somphone, in Vientiane in December 2012 after he was stopped by the police, and of an environmentalist, Sompawn Khantisouk, who has been missing since he was ordered to report to a police station in January 2007.

“The Lao authorities are defying international concerns by ignoring calls to respond to the enforced disappearance of activist Sombath Somphone,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director. “Concerned governments need to drive home the point that they will not sit complacently by as disappearances and other abuses multiply in Laos.”

The Lao government has not made tangible changes toward meeting commitments made during its first UPR session in 2010. Laos should ratify core international human rights conventions; end restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly, and the media; and bring its labor laws and regulations into line with core labor standards of the International Labor Organization. The government should investigate and end abuses in its drug detention centers and shift to voluntary, community-based drug dependency treatment that is medically appropriate.

The government severely suppresses the rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly. The penal code outlaws activities that the government deems to be “slandering” or “weakening” the state. The government strictly controls all television, radio, and print media in the country. It bars any article or mass media broadcast considered contrary to “national interests” or “traditional culture and dignity.” People involved with unauthorized public protests have been sentenced to long prison terms.

Workers are similarly denied their rights, and prohibited from establishing or joining a trade union of their own choosing since all unions must be part of the government-controlled Lao Federation of Trade Unions (LFTU). They are also unable to exercise their right to strike because of restrictions in labor law and authorities’ proven willingness to forcibly break up workers’ protests.

“This government brooks no dissent from its people, and uses rights-abusing laws and long prison terms to prevent any challenge to its power,” Robertson said. “Lao people fear their government because they know officials can act with near total impunity.”

Lao authorities also violate the rights of people held in drug detention centers. Human Rights Watch found that detainees were held against their will for months and even years, in administrative detention without due process protections such as a court ruling, ongoing judicial oversight, or an appeal mechanism. Detainees at the Somsanga center outside Vientiane are given little effective treatment, locked in cells inside barbed wire compounds, and subjected to brutal beatings.

“Compulsory detention in the Lao drug centers violates a slew of human rights,” Robertson said. “Suspected drug users are arbitrarily arrested, denied a fair trial, and subjected to cruel and inhuman treatment in the drug centers.”

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June 11, 2014

 

June 10, 2014


Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/06/10/laos-universal-periodic-review-submission

 

The government of Laos continues to severely restrict fundamental rights including freedom of speech, association, and assembly. Since 2010 the government has arbitrarily arrested and detained, and in at least two cases forcibly disappeared civil society activists and those deemed critical of the government.

This submission focuses on four core areas that United Nations member countries largely failed to address during Lao’s previous UPR in 2010: enforced disappearances; freedom of speech, association, and assembly; the treatment of detainees in drug detention centers; and labor rights.

 

Enforced Disappearances

Despite having accepted relevant recommendations during its previous UPR, Laos has signed, but not ratified, the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Enforced disappearances violate a range of fundamental human rights protected under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which the government has ratified, including prohibitions against arbitrary arrest and detention; torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment; and extrajudicial execution.

The enforced disappearance of prominent civil society leader Sombath Somphone, who was detained at a police checkpoint in Vientiane and has not been heard from since, is emblematic of the Lao government’s lack of accountability for rights abuses.

Sombath Somphone was last seen by his wife, Ng Shui Meng, on the evening of December 15, 2012 as they were driving separately from his office to their home. She lost sight of his vehicle about 6 p.m. near the police post on Thadeau Road in Vientiane. Shui Meng obtained close-circuit television (CCTV) from the police which shows that Sombath’s jeep was stopped by the police at the Thadeau police post. The police took Sombath into the police post. Shortly thereafter, Sombath re-emerged from the police post, was escorted to a different vehicle and driven away.

Government officials have repeatedly denied that the government took Sombath into custody yet have failed to conduct a serious investigation into his enforced disappearance or provide any other credible information about current whereabouts. Furthermore, the government has continually rejected all offers of technical assistance for the investigation from various governments, including offers to analyse the original CCTV footage in order to assist with determining the identities of the individuals in the videotape, and gathering additional details (such as license plates) of the vehicles that were involved.

Similarly, the Lao government has failed to make progress in the case of Sompawn Khantisouk, the owner of two ecotourism businesses in Luang Namtha province, who was forcibly disappeared on January23, 2007. Sompawn received a call from a local police officer to visit the police station concerning a supposed arson attack on his home the previous day. Riding his motorcycle, Sompawn stopped on the way to the police station to talk to a man about ordering fence posts and while talking with that person he received another phone call from the same police officer to hurry up. A few minutes later, as he was driving to the police station, witnesses saw an SUV signal to Sompawn to pull his motorcycle over. Witnesses stated that four men wearing police uniforms then forced Sompawn into the car and drove away. A rudimentary police investigation ensued that focused on discrediting the witnesses, and concluded without further evidence that Sompawn’s disappearance was the result of an unspecified personal or business conflict. His family filed a grievance of harm by the state to the National Assembly, but provincial and local officials never responded to the National Assembly’s inquiries about the case.

Laos is obligated under international human rights law to prevent and remedy any enforced disappearances. Despite widespread calls for accountability, both regionally and internationally, questions about the enforced disappearances are met with denials or silence by senior officials of the Lao government.

 

Suppression of Freedom of Speech, Association, and Assembly 

Laos is a party to the ICCPR, and despite having accepted recommendations at its previous UPR to “amend further its Law on the Media, the Law on Publication and other related regulations to comply with international human rights standards” and to “allow media and civil society organizations to undertake education, advocacy, monitoring and reporting on human rights issues,” Laos has failed to protect the right to freedom of speech, press, and assembly. The Lao government strictly controls all TV, radio and printed publications in the country.  The constitution in article 23 sets out that all “mass media activities” that are contrary to “national interests” or “traditional culture and dignity” are prohibited. Article 44 of the constitution establishes that Lao citizens have the right to freedom of speech, press, assembly, association and demonstration that are “not contrary to the laws”— yet the penal code contains broad limitations that prohibit “slandering the state, distorting party or state policies, inciting disorder, or propagating information or opinions that weaken the state.” In this way, the laws grant officials the authority to effectively limit basic rights and freedoms for anyone they deem critical of the government and authorities. Article 59 of the penal code provides prison sentences ranging from one to five years for anti-government propaganda, and up to 15 years for journalistswho fail to file “constructive reports” or who seek to “obstruct” the work of the government.[1] Government officials review all privately owned periodicals after publication and can impose fines for those they deem to violate the law.

In practice, self-censorship is encouraged and is common, and the media remains tightly controlled by the authorities. For example, in January 2012, the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism cancelled the popular radio program, Talk of the News, without explanation. The show encouraged political and social debate on a range of topics, including land grabs and corruption.[2]

The government should immediate release Thongpaseuth Keuakoun, Bouavanh Chanhmanivong, and Sen-aloun Phengpanh who were detained for the peaceful exercise of their basic rights. Both were arrested in 1999 for attempting to organize a demonstration and each were sentenced to 15 years in prison.[3]

Ethnic Hmong Thao Moua and Pa Phue Khang were arrested in 2003 after serving as guides for foreign journalists reporting on the situation of the Hmong in Laos. They were sentenced for 12 and 20 years respectively, for obstruction of justice and the possession of weapons.[4]

 

Treatment of Detainees in Somsanga Drug Detention Center

The arbitrary detention of people suspected of using drugs, along with beggars, homeless people, children, and people with mental illnesses in compulsory drug detention centers across Laos remains a grave concern. As of mid-2011 (the last year for which data is publicly available), there were at least eight such centers across the country, of which the Somsanga detention center on the outskirts of Vientiane is the oldest and largest. Somsanga functions as a detention center, although it lacks the basic protections of due process, judicial oversight, and mechanisms for appeals. None of the persons whom Human Rights Watch interviewed had seen a lawyer or been sent to a court prior to their detention in Somsanga.

Human Rights Watch found that detainees at the Somsanga center are locked in cells inside barbed wire compounds. Former detainees told Human Rights Watch that they were held for periods of three months to more than a year. Police, who guard the facility’s main gate, are responsible for security and are a constant presence among detainees. Detainees live in a punitive and heavily controlled environment. Those who try to escape are sometimes brutally beaten by “room captains”—trusted detainees whom police and center staff designate to play a central role in the daily control of other detainees, including serving the center’s as adjunct guards and punishing detainees who infringe center rules. One former detainee told Human Rights Watch that “room captains” beat detainees who had attempted escape “until they were unconscious.” The detainee stated that guards witnessed the beatings and encouraged the “room captains.” Former detainees also reported being punished by being tied up in the sun for hours without food or water.

Somsanga offers little effective, evidence-based treatment for those who need it. Confinement is Somsanga’s central operating principle: most detainees remain in locked cells inside compounds with high walls topped with barbed wire. Human Rights Watch found that Somsanga holds most of its detainees against their will. Police or village militia (tamnautbaan) detain and bring people to Somsanga. Other detainees enter because their family members “volunteer” them out of a mistaken belief that the center offers therapeutic treatment, or because they feel social pressure to help make their village “drug free.” Regardless of how they enter, people held in Somsanga are not given the benefit from any judicial process to authorize their detention.

Many of the former detainees interviewed by Human Rights Watch for the report said they had directly witnessed suicides or suicide attempts by fellow detainees during their detention. Maesa, a child who spent six months in Somsanga, said that, “Some people think that to die is better than staying there.” Former detainees spoke of suicides—both attempted and actualized—involving ingesting glass or hanging.

The treatment of individuals in compulsory drug detention centers violate a wide range of human rights, including the right to freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment; the right to freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention; the right to a fair trial; the right to privacy; and the right to the highest attainable standard of health. In its 2010 UPR review, Laos accepted that acts of torture and maltreatment were considered criminal offenses and that the Criminal Procedure Code did not permit the inhuman treatment of detainees in any circumstances.[5] Despite new reports of arbitrary detention and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment at Somsanga, the Lao government has not investigated these reports, held any person responsible or taken steps to close the center down.

 

Labor Rights

Laos violates the right to freedom of association for workers in law and in practice. The Trade Union Law 2008 defines a trade union as a “mass organization in the political system of the democratic centralism unified leadership under the Lao People’s Revolution Party” and requires that unions affiliate to the Lao Federation of Trade Unions (LFTU), which is controlled by the government and the ruling party. Article 5 of the law requires trades unions to “organize and conduct activities in line with the unified leadership under the Lao Revolution Party.” Laos violates article 22 of the ICCPR and article 8 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) by preventing workers from establishing or joining unions of their own choosing outside of the LFTU.

The LFTU is so close to the government that the president and two vice presidents of the LFTU are given status equal to a minister and vice ministers in the government and are paid salaries by the government. In public statements, the LFTU has regularly said that it plays a role in helping the government enforce “labor discipline” in line with the law. The LFTU’s quasi-state function compromises its ability to represent workers, since it plays a dual, and sometimes conflicting, role as a controller as well as a potential protector of workers’ interests.

Laos also effectively prohibits workers from exercising the right to strike.  Article 65 of the Labor Law 2007 strictly prohibits workers or their representatives from calling a work stoppage in a wide variety of situations, including disputes regarding implementation of the labor law or regulations, or over workers benefits under the law.  Work stoppages are also forbidden when the matter in dispute is currently being discussed in a negotiation that both sides have agreed to participate in, or during the period when the dispute is being considered by government labor authorities, or is being considered by the labor disputes settlement procedures of the courts. Any person or organization that engages either “directly or indirectly” in a stoppage, or who “verbally or materially incites workers” to conduct a stoppage “thus causing damage…or social disorder” is subject to prosecution. The penal code provides for between one and five years’ imprisonment for those who join an organization that encourages protests, demonstrations and other actions that might cause “turmoil or social instability.”

While it is important that the government has ratified core International Labour Organization (ILO) standards on nondiscrimination and ending child labor, it has not ratified ILO Convention No. 87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize) and Convention No. 98 (Right to Organize and Collectively Bargain).

 

International Criminal Court

Despite purported efforts by the government in 2005 and 2006 to examine needed legislative changes to enable ratification of International Criminal Court (ICC), Laos did not ratify the Rome Statute establishing the court.  The ICC is the first permanent international tribunal with jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. As a court of last resort, which only has jurisdiction when national courts are unwilling or unable to prosecute these crimes, the ICC is an essential institution in the effective implementation of international human rights and humanitarian law.

 

Recommendations

Regarding Enforced Disappearance

  • Disclose the whereabouts or fate of prominent civil society leader Sombath Somphone and businessman Sompawn Khantisouk. Investigate and hold accountable those responsible for their and other enforced disappearances.
  • Ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Person from Enforced Disappearance and enact appropriate implementing legislation.

Regarding Freedom of Expression and Association

  • Cease the harassment and arbitrary arrest of human rights defenders, independent journalists, social activists, and worker advocates.
  • Ensure that civil society and media organizations can operate free of government interference in violation of their basic rights.
  • Drop all charges and release everyone facing criminal prosecution for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, assembly, or association.
  • End government control of the media. Reform media ownership and licensing rules to allow media organizations to function freely and without fear of government reprisal for their reporting.

Regarding Labor Rights

  • Amend the Trade Union Act and the Labor Act to bring them into full compliance with international labor standards, including the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining, and right to strike.
  • Ratify ILO Conventions No. 87 and 98.
  • Recognize in practice the right of workers to form unions of their own choosing, including those not affiliated with the LFTU.

Regarding Drug Detention Centers

  • Carry out prompt, independent, and thorough investigations into allegations of arbitrary detention and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in Somsanga and other drug detention centers.
  • Stop the arbitrary arrest and detention of people who use drugs and other “undesirables” such as homeless people, beggars, street children, and people with mental disabilities.
  • Instruct the Lao Commission on Drug Control to release current detainees in Somsanga, as their continued detention cannot be justified on legal or health grounds, and permanently close the center.
  • Instruct the Ministry of Health and other relevant ministries and departments to expand access to voluntary, community-based drug dependency treatment and ensure that such treatment is medically appropriate and comports with international standards.

Regarding the International Criminal Court

  • Undertake the necessary amendments of its national legislation and ratify the Rome Statute.

 


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[1] Lao Penal Code, Art. 59.

[2] Beaumont Smith, “Off the air in Laos,” Asia Times Online, February 22, 2012, http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Southeast_Asia/NB22Ae01.html (accessed April 22, 2014).

[3] Amnesty International, “Annual Report 2013,” https://www.amnesty.org/en/region/laos/report-2013#page (accessed June 4, 2014).

[4] Ibid.

[5] UN Human Rights Council, “Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review,” June 2010, A/HRC/15/5.

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