June 17, 2014
UNPO and the Congress of World Hmong People submitted a joint Universal Periodic Review (UPR) report to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights prior to the 21st session in order to draw attention for the situation of the Hmong people, the third biggest minority group subjected to the most severe persecution in the Lao’s People Democratic Republic (LPDR).
The UPR report focuses in particular on the situation of the Hmong people in the LPDR, who are subjected to inter alia discrimination, uncompensated land confiscation, arbitrary arrests and violations of their cultural and religious rights. You can access the full report by clicking on its link under “Attached Documents” on the right.
The Hmong ChaoFa people are an indigenous group originally from the ChaoFa region of Northern Laos that distinguish themselves from the Laotian population through their ethnicity, language, culture and religion. Unfortunately, the Hmong people are not recognized as an indigenous group by the Laotian Government and specific legislation for indigenous people in the LPDR does not exist either. The Hmong people have been heavily stigmatized due to their involvement with the American Forces during the Vietnam War. They are stereotyped as a violent anti-governmental group and are systematically targeted and discriminated by the Laotian Government.
Under the 1991 Constitution, the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party was designated as the one and only legal political party in the country. Accordingly, the rule of law is undermined in the LPDR by political interference and endemic corruption. Moreover, widespread restrictions of the freedom of expression and association, political prisoners, arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, abject poverty, inequality, and lack of access to health and education, accompanied by severe restrictions on cultural and religious freedoms for ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples, such as the Hmong, are increasing.
For example, charges of threat to the national security of the LPDR are employed to arrest members of minority communities, and in particular Hmong individuals who are perceived as untrustworthy and anti-governmental. Furthermore, especially Hmong communities living in remote rural areas do not have access to basic services and are the most affected by food insecurity resulting in high rates of child malnutrition and child mortality. The Hmong people face further impoverishment by land grabbing practices of the Laotian Government forcing them to relocate and contributing to their internal displacement.
The report concluded with the following recommendations:
1. Eliminate, in law and in practice, all forms of discrimination and other human rights violations against persons belonging to ethnic, linguistic or other minorities; and develop a legal framework for the condemnation of propaganda and statement related to principles of ethnic superiority;
2. Develop a framework for the recognition and protection of indigenous peoples, and safeguard them accordingly;
3. Stop any form of military violence against Hmong ChoaFa Indigenous civilians in the Xaysombune Special Zone;
4. End the intimidation, harassment and persecution of human rights defenders, journalists, and members of minority communities through arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances
5. Free all individuals currently deprived of their liberty for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly;
6. Start investigations of cases of enforced disappearances in a transparent manner;
7. Ensure that people deprived of their liberty are treated with humanity and dignity;
8. Allow the access of foreign journalists and observers to Laos;
9. Support the reintegration of returnees into society, and ensure that their freedom of movement is not restricted;
10. Develop poverty-alleviation programs specifically targeting regions and communities where regional ethnicities reside, focusing on the needs of indigenous peoples;
11. Address the significant disparity in health and living standards between regions populated by minorities and majorities, including providing remote geographical areas with adequate health care facilities, fighting child malnutrition, and tackling maternal mortality;
12. Develop a legal framework to protect local inhabitants from land grabbing practices and forced relocation as a consequence of economic activities that deprive them from their own means of subsistence;
13. Allow all individuals to freely exercise their religious beliefs and end the oppression of religious minorities.