Jul 31, 2023

Hmong rights in Lao: UNPO Presents joint-submission to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation, along with the Congress of World Hmong People and the Legal Clinic Aix Global Justice on Human Rights, have put forward a joint submission to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The report provides a comprehensive and graphic portrayal of the Laotian government’s blatant dismissal of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), despite having accessioned the Covenant in 2007.


The Hmong are an indigenous group originating from Laos, Southern China, Viet Nam, Myanmar and Thailand. They are ethnically distinct from the Laotian population, possessing their own written and spoken language, culture and religion. The Hmong constitute the third largest, yet most targeted and oppressed, ethnic group in the LPDR. Institutionalized and systemic discrimination of the Hmong is extensive and long-standing. This oppression originates from a dichotomous narrative molded by the Lao government; the Hmong are assigned as enemies of the State due to the decision of some Hmong groups to fight with the United States and France during the Indochina and Vietnam wars. However, recent years have seen a drastic escalation in tensions and state-sponsored violence against the Hmong. This is felt most acutely by the ChaoFa Hmong, those who subscribe to the ‘Mother of Writing’ as opposed to Buddhism or Christianity, situated in the Xaisomboun region. These tensions are driven by the Laotian government’s desire for exploitative economic development, funded through foreign investment, specifically in the Phou Bia mountain area.

This report finds that the actions of the Laotian government constitute a severe violation of the ICESCR, in addition to exposing the acute and omnipresent reality of structural discrimination against the Hmong. It can be concluded that, not only do the Lao government fail to protect the human rights of the Hmong, they are undoubtedly and actively responsible for the devastation of Hmong rights and livelihoods in the Lao People's Democratic Republic (LPDR). This is most poignantly highlighted by the government’s fatal military campaigns against the Hmong. These violent campaigns eradicate any possibility of the Hmong living in conditions that remotely resemble a society where equal rights are afforded to all.

The joint submission has been put forward in the context of the Laotian government refusing to cooperate with UN mechanisms, despite growing international concerns and allegations. Thus far, they have managed to evade international media coverage.

The UNPO expresses deep concern about the plight of the Chaofa Hmong community and urges the international community to thoroughly investigate the matter and take decisive actions to put an end to the ongoing human rights abuses faced by the Hmong people in Xaysomboun.