Laos is poised to take an active role in addressing human rights issues within the ASEAN community during its tenure as chair of the regional bloc, according to Yong Chanthalangsy, a Lao representative to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR).
In a recent interview with the Vientiane Times, Yong emphasized Laos’ commitment to promoting and protecting human rights in the ASEAN region. He highlighted Laos’ track record of active involvement in human rights affairs, which has positioned the country as a key player in the region, according to him.
The human rights representative highlighted that Laos has signed several international agreements on human rights, covering social and political rights and freedom of expression. He emphasized the government’s work to adjust domestic laws to match these international standards.
The Lao constitution guarantees equal rights for all individuals, irrespective of their nationality, race, or ethnicity, and explicitly prohibits discrimination in employment and other spheres of life. Despite these constitutional provisions, concerns persist regarding the effective enforcement of these laws in Laos. According to the US Department of State’s reports in 2022, there were instances where Laos failed to adequately enforce anti-discrimination laws, resulting in continued discrimination against minority ethnic groups and other marginalized communities.
In recent years, Laos has taken some steps to address human rights issues and enhance legal frameworks. The government has engaged in dialogue with international organizations and stakeholders to improve human rights protections and promote equality and non-discrimination.
However, challenges remain, as Yong acknowledged.
He believes that by aiming to assess Laos’s role in human rights at a deeper level, the forthcoming changes would lead to clearer actions and a stronger commitment to uphold the law by the national legislators.
He acknowledged that there are lingering misconceptions among some officials and the public. He highlighted the need for greater education and awareness to dispel these misunderstandings, particularly in remote areas of the country.
The official stressed that once people have a better understanding of human rights and their importance to the Party and government’s policies, they will be better equipped to uphold and protect these rights in line with Laos’ international commitments.
Laos’s leadership in ASEAN offers a chance to boost discussions on human rights in the region. With Yong’s assurance of Laos’s dedication to prioritizing human rights and its endorsement of international agreements, the country could be ready to lead in advancing human rights within ASEAN.