Lao Government Strikes Back
Image Credit: IRRI Images (Flickr)

Lao Government Strikes Back


VIENTIANE — Latter day communist countries still carry the legacies of their past. Somewhat secretive and sensitive to criticism, authorities in one-party states tend to hide at the slightest hint of criticism. It’s a routine in East Asia that is as common in Laos as it has been in Vietnam, China, or even North Korea.

But more recently the government of Thongsing Thammavong in Laos has been making some very different noises. His government has lashed-out at the faceless bureaucrats behind the nation’s dilapidated health services, a bungling judiciary, and even the state-controlled press.

That was highlighted at a recent two-day meeting of officials from the Information Ministry when he complained about journalistic standards, adding the delivery of information was limited and failed to reflect the realities of life.

Editors and reporters bore the brunt of the criticism amid complaints they were untrained and that success was measured by how many stories they churned out as opposed to the quality of those reports.

This included complaints that the official press had failed “to counter incorrect reports circulated by hostile groups that aim to tarnish” government policies. It was seen as a reference to growing regional opposition to the US$3.8 billion Xayaburi Dam that Laos is building on the Mekong River.

Hinting that reforms were on the agenda, Thongsing also said according to the state-run Vientiane Times, “The quality of work in the field of information is not good enough … There is little new information that readers can learn from media outlets.”

Editors took this to heart, running further front page commentaries from the Prime Minister.

Among them, Thongsing complained there were limits to Lao’s health care in terms of equipment and specialists, the sector was far behind development targets and in some cases medics were dictated by “poor ideology, ethics, morals and honesty.”

He then launched into a tirade against the country’s judicial and legal system.

Lawyers have not behaved responsibility, he said, and had “been engaged in boasting practices and leading extravagant lifestyles, too lazy even to study to improve themselves”. He added civil servants, soldiers and policemen did not have a proper understanding of the laws.

Delivery of his message was clumsy at best but rarely do leaders of such countries publicly criticize their own ministries and bureaucracies responsible for the state press, health, and the judiciary.

Suspicions among seasoned Laos watchers is that change is coming.

June 24, 2013 at 02:11

People do not understand but they understood has only to do with extremely understanding within his or her analysis. If you said, they are bad government then other says, no that is not true but what is truly for them is no none sense at all. ONE political party is must a worse then the Kingdom of Laos.

October 5, 2012 at 15:20

I disagree with this comment.
First of all, it is totally not true that you can get away from the Police by paying them 40-60usd if you run over somebody. I don't know where you get that from? Maybe some legend somewhere long time ago in the countryside. But today, for daily life and ordinary people, this is definitely not true.
2nd – The Government of Laos (GoL) is not that bad. I live in Laos,Vientiane for years and work sometimes with the GoL, several ministries and NGOs. They're not all bad people. It's just easier to caricature and simplify the story by just saying: "Bad government, all corupted and all". But this is not true.
Don't make up your mind with crispy and/or controversial topics. Every governments (so people) around the world have quality and weekness as well as degree of corruption. You just ear more about the bad than the good, that's it.
And please, by the way, have a little bit of respect for people who work for the GoL, faces all these challenges and still work and believe for a better futur for their homeland.
Don't forget that the Lao PDR has an hard time in history "the most bombed country in the history of humanity" (thanks the CIA). More bombs/UXO than the 1st and 2nd World War all together.
To finish: very good articles from both Luke Hunt and the government of Thongsing Thammavong.

September 12, 2012 at 13:14

I don't agree with under comment, if you don't know in deep of LPDR then you should set up. 

August 26, 2012 at 00:08

Very dangerous to be in Laos and to speak out against his own government. I'm sure the LPDR will deliver swift actions to keep him silent and make him an example for anyone else who decides to complain about the authority of the LPDR and the qaulity of work that civil servents, soldiers and police officiers portray. If you ran over someone in Laos, you could always pay the police or the person 40-60$ and just to walk away from the scene. It is a very lawless place, if you have the money, you can pay your way out of the law.

August 25, 2012 at 22:15

good job, pm, 

August 25, 2012 at 19:20

To publicly acknowledge some of the shortcomings in the system is one thing but to actually overhaul it is entirely a different matter. The lao communist party is the ONE and ONLY one who controls the country, manipulates the media policies and gives the final say of what the prime minister can or cannot do. The one main topic, untouched in the speech and the main focus of the political opposition from overseas is the corruption. It seems like the subject was ignored and not included in his wishy washy vision of changes.

August 25, 2012 at 12:11

They know the big problem facing the nation.but they can't fix the problem by Laotiane themself,with out Vietnamese's permittion.

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