Rapport de pays: Laos

Laos

15/03/1998

1 Conscription

conscription exists

Conscription has existed ever since the establishment of the Lao People's Democratic Republic in 1975.

The present legal basis of conscription is the 1994 Law on Military Service. [1]

The armed forces have been significantly reduced in recent years, from about 50,000 troops in the early 1980s to 29,000 by 1997. Since Laos no longer receives financial assistance from Vietnam and the former Soviet Union, maintaining the armed forces has become more difficult. To solve financial problems attempts are made to increase the armed forces' self-sufficiency. In 1994, for instance, it was decided that the armed forces should in future be responsible for growing their own vegetables for their daily consumption. [1]

Military service is performed in the regular armed forces, the People's Liberation Army. There are also several paramilitary forces, notably the provincial forces and the militia. This structure is based on that of the Pathet Lao guerrillas comprising main force units and regional and local guerrillas. The provincial forces are under the command of the provincial authorities and are responsible for border control and internal security. Members receive little pay, have few weapons and are inadequately trained. The militia is organised at workplace and village level and assists local security. It serves as a reserve force to the regular armed forces. Its members are lightly armed and receive no pay and little or no training. [6]

These paramilitary forces are partly made up by reservists who have completed their military service, and liable conscripts who have not been called up for military service. [4]

Further recruitment policies of these paramilitary forces are not known.

military service

All men between the ages of 17 and 26 are liable for military service, and between the ages of 15 and 25 in special circumstances. [4] [6]

The length of military service is 18 months, but service may last longer for certain categories of conscripts. [1] [4]

Reserve duties apply under the 1994 Law on Military Service. Young men who have completed their military service may be employed in the provincial forces or the militia, although this does not actually seem to happen much. [4]

postponement and exemption

No information is available about any legal provisions for postponement of and exemption from service.

recruitment

Call-up for military service usually takes place at the age of 18. [6]

The legal minimum enlistment age is 15. [7]

Only very few liable conscripts are actually called up for military service. Those who are recruited by the regular armed forces may be assigned to the provincial troops or militia. [2]

There are legally established recruitment procedures, but recruitment does not seem to work well, one of the reasons being poor coordination between the general staff of the armed forces and regional units. [2]

Until the 1980s recruitment was believed to have been more informal, along the lines of the village level recruitment methods employed during the 1960s and 1970s guerrilla war. [2]

2 Conscientious objection

The right to conscientious objection is not legally recognized and there are no provisions for substitute service. [3] [5]

3 Draft evasion and desertion

penalties

No information available.

practice

Draft evasion is apparently widespread. Conditions in the armed forces are known to be poor, pay is low and there is a shortage of equipment and uniforms.

In 1989 the Chair of the LPRP complained in a speech that "our youths throughout the country have failed to associate with the army and failed to use the army as a school to carry out practices as they were expected to do in the past."

Seminars have been held in many districts on how to get local authorities to encourage compliance with the conscription laws. [6]

5 History

Between 1948 and 1954 too conscription was used, but after 1954 (when France recognized the independence of Laos) it was no longer enforced for several decades until it was reintroduced again in the 70s. [8]

6 Annual statistics

The armed forces are 29,000-strong - that is, 0.95 percent of the population.

Every year approximately 225,000 men reach conscription age.

The paramilitary forces are about 100,000-strong - that is, about 3 percent of the population. [9]

Sources

[1] Südostasien Aktuell, July 1994. Institut für Asienkunde, Hamburg. [2] Weggel, Oskar 1983. 'Die Laotische Volksarmee', in: Südostasien Aktuell, November 1983, Institut für Asienkunde, Hamburg. [3] UN Commission on Human Rights 1997. The question of conscientious objection to military service, report of the Secretary-General prepared pursuant to Commission resolution 1995/83. United Nations, Geneva. [4] Société I3c 1991. Military Powers Encyclopedia, Volume 6. Paris. [5] Amnesty International 1991. Conscientious objection to military service. AI, London. [6] US Library of Congress 1994. Laos - a country study. Area handbooks, State Department, Washington DC. [7] Brett, Rachel and Margaret McCallin 1996. Children: The invisible soldiers. Rädda Barnen, Stockholm. [8] Prasad, D., T. Smythe 1968. Conscription: a world survey, compulsory military service and resistance to it. War Resisters' International, London. [9] Institute for Strategic Studies 1997. Military Balance 1997/98. ISS, London.