At FORUM-ASIA, we employ a range of strategies to effectively achieve our goals and create a lasting impact.

Through a diverse array of approaches, FORUM-ASIA is dedicated to achieving our objectives and leaving a lasting imprint on human rights advocacy.

Who we work with

Our interventions are meticulously crafted and ready to enact tangible change, addressing pressing issues and empowering communities.

Each statements, letters, and publications are meticulously tailored, poised to transform challenges into opportunities, and to empower communities towards sustainable progress.

Multimedia Stories

With a firm commitment to turning ideas into action, FORUM-ASIA strives to create lasting change that leaves a positive legacy for future generations.

Explore our dedicated sub-sites to witness firsthand how FORUM-ASIA turns ideas into action, striving to create a legacy of lasting positive change for future generations.

Subscribe our monthly e-newsletter

Development and Human Rights: What Will the Future Hold for Minorities in Laos?

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Labeled as one of the worlds least developed nations, residents of Laos struggle with access to basic rights. With foreign investment entering the country, how will this affect the lives of minorities?
The situation of ethnic minorities in Laos is unique to Southeast Asia and in fact most of the world. By most studies, minorities in Laos make up the majority of the population. It is estimated that the dominant Lao ethnic group makes up between 40-60% of the population.

The country of Laos is labeled as a “least developed nation”. Outside of urban Vientiane, the people of Laos struggle with economic, social and cultural rights such as adequate food and shelter, clean water and basic education. Access to civil and political rights in this communist state remain a vague dream for those whose ideology differs from the ruling party. In recent years, the government of Laos has made attempts to build schools in many rural areas, but the issue now is finding qualified teachers to staff them. Access to basic health is minimal, less than 20% of children are immunized. Rural areas with high populations of minorities have the least access to basic health services.

The Constitution of Laos emphasizes the unity of the multi-ethnic state and also bans anything that goes against that unity. According to Lao law, all ethnicities in Laos are to be treated the same and receive the same access and services as all citizens of Laos; there is to be no discrimination based on ethnicity. But the reality is quite different from the law; many traditional practices are still considered backwards. There exists little ethnically disaggregated data relating to development and access to services on ethnic minorities in Laos, only studies done by NGO’s and other agencies (World Bank, United Nations) show the disparities and  the Lao government does not produce such data.
There are few historical events of ethnic conflict in Laos, also a unique situation in Southeast Asia. This can be largely accredited to state avoidance of aggressive attempts at assimilation. There has also been little expressed desire for separate states for ethnic minorities. Conflicts between minorities have only more recently taken place because of outside influences, French colonisers and the American war, and most recently due to the government of Laos village relocation programs which sometimes amalgamates different ethnic groups causing tensions between them over limited resources in the area.

In the analysis of ethnic conflict situations, there cannot be over generalisations made of the situations; certainly ethnicities are not united entirely on issues and it cannot be assumed that all members of the ethic group are participating in the conflict. This remains true for the situation of the Hmong people, some of who live in conflict with the Laos government. An estimated 2,000 ethnic Hmong people live in the jungles of Laos and are persecuted by the Laos and Vietnamese army. Hmong people in Laos face increased discrimination due to their historical association with the USA during the American War in Vietnam, that spilled over into Laos. Hmong people make up the vast majority of those coming to Thailand from Laos seeking refugee status.

Laos has gone through great changes in the past decade since joining ASEAN. For years, the country’s economy had been closed to foreign investment. Today, many view economic changes in Laos as out of the hands of the government. One of the largest economic projects in Laos, the Nam Theun 2 Dam, is being developed by the World Bank. Over 6,000 people, mostly ethnic minorities, have been displaced due to this project. As the economy in Laos grows rapidly, we can only wait and see if those benefits will trickle down to the marginalised minority communities.