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LAO: Government must further human rights at regional level

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map_of_laos.gifFORUM-ASIA commends Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) for its recent commitment to further human rights protection and promotion, by signing the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (CED) but calls the government to further its commitments at the regional level.

At the annual United Nations treaty event in Geneva, 23-30 September, Lao PDR was among five other UN member states which signed the CED. The CED was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 20 December 2006, to date; the convention requires five more ratifications by member states to enter into force.

FORUM-ASIA recognizes that Lao PDR is the first of the ASEAN countries to sign this international convention. Nonetheless this remains an isolated case, especially when reflecting on the history of Lao PDR’s engagements and commitments to international human rights instruments.

For example, in February 2000, Lao PDR ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. However it has yet to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which it signed in December 2000.

Whilst having signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, delays in the periodic reporting have been noted as well as reports revealing that discrimination against the Hmong peoples remains prevalent.

Whilst Laos PDR, in unison with other ASEAN countries, has ratified the Convention on Child Rights and the Convention Against all forms of Discrimination Against Women, it clearly remains behind, with Burma and Brunei, in the total number of commitments by other ASEAN member states to international human rights instruments.

Recently, during the general debate of the 63rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly, 29 September 2008, the honorable H.E. Dr. Thongloun Sisoulith, reiterated Lao PDR’s “unshakable commitment to continued full cooperation with the international community in pursuit of a world free from fear and want, rooted in a new, just and equitable order.”

Furthermore, the delegation expressed Lao PDR’s gratification in being part of “a momentous and milestone event” referring to the signing of the ASEAN Charter, thus transforming ASEAN into a rule-based regional organization.

It is in this light, that FORUM-ASIA urges Lao PDR to take a leadership role within the ASEAN member countries, by increasing their commitments to instruments, namely the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

FORUM-ASIA also urges Lao PDR to bring the energy and enthusiasm demonstrated during the recent United Nations events, to the regional level, where such actions and discussions can only enhance the realization of human rights, peace and further cooperation in the region.