Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Laos builds legal system but awareness remains low

The Lao PDR has enacted many laws and regulations since the national constitution was adopted but citizen's awareness of the law remains low.

Minister of Justice Dr Chaleun Yiapaoher spoke on the issue yesterday at a lecture to mark the 20th anniversary of the promulgation of the national constitution.
“Even after 20 years, it remains difficult to strictly and effectively enforce the laws we have enacted,” Dr Chaleun said.

Since the national constitution came into force on August 15, 1991 along with 22 news laws, around 68 additional laws have been enacted.

Among the many reasons for the challenges in enforcing laws in Laos, Dr Chaleun said the main reason that enforcement is still based on traditional methods is that the country lacks a history of the rule of law and many offenders are poor, which limits their ability to make reparations and so judgments are not enforced.

As it stated in the preamble, the constitution is the fruit of the process of the people's discussion throughout the country which reflects the long-term aspirations and determination of the national community to strive together to fulfil the objectives of building Laos into a country of peace, independence, democracy, unity and prosperity.

The constitution recognises the great achievement of the Lao people in the course of their struggle for national liberation, and their protection and construction of the country. It defines the political regime, the socio-economic system, the regime of national security, defence, foreign affairs, the rights and obligations of citizens and a system of organisation of state apparatus in the new period.

Dr Chaleun, who was a member of the committee responsible for drafting the constitution, said that the date of the announcement of the constitution was also the date the country transitioned from one governed by decrees and decisions to a state governed by laws and regulations.

In addition to national laws, Laos is also bound by the rules of more than 150 UN treaties and last year ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and the Convention against Torture and other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Dr Chaleun called on all ministries and organisations to recognise the important role of the Ministry of Justice in society, to participate in legal awareness building by educating citizens about the law and to create crime-free villages. He added that the ministry has supplied legal handbooks and personnel to all villages to help with informing the public of their legal rights and obligations.

“We will certainly become more strict and efficient in law enforcement, but this will take time because training is needed as the foundation of enforcement,” Dr Chaleun noted.