The Lao government has promulgated a prime ministerial decree designed to promote unity among the nation’s diverse ethnic groups.
The Lao National Gazette, a government website which posts information concerning legislation, last week published the Prime Ministerial Decree on Ethnic Groups, which provides officials with guidelines for the regulation of ethnic groups.
Under the decree, which Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith endorsed on March 30, individuals and all types of organisations, in both the public and private sectors, are encouraged to engage in the affairs of the country’s ethnic groups.
The decree states that ethnic groups must be governed using principles that ensure unity and equality. Besides, all ethnic groups should be permitted to practise their special customs and traditions under the country’s Constitution and laws.
The decree bans all forms of discrimination against ethnic groups while calling for all ethnic groups to be provided with equal opportunities for development and participation in national protection and development.
To build unity among ethnic groups, the government has specified 12 policies, including the expansion of infrastructure in rural areas. This is aimed at enabling ethnic communities in remote areas to more easily access state services and development opportunities.
Under the policy, the government will support the development of educational facilities in rural areas and children from low-income families will have the opportunity to attend school free of charge, especially vocational schools.
Concerning the provision of health care for ethnic groups, it is the government’s policy to provide poor families with free health care.
In particular, hospital treatment for children under the age of five will be provided free of charge.
While all ethnic groups are allowed and encouraged to maintain their cultural practices, it is the state’s policy to end the practice of traditions that hinder the social advancement of certain ethnic groups.
In this regard, the government encourages ethnic groups to use their cultural practices and communities to attract tourists, as a means to generate income and alleviate poverty.
It also encourages them to use natural resources in sustainable ways, which it believes can be achieved by people having permanent jobs and regular incomes.
It aims to provide them with easier access to legal services and ensure they are familiar with the country’s laws, as deeper knowledge of legislation will enable them to protect their legitimate interests.
People from the various ethnic groups are encouraged to become civil servants and the government gives them opportunities to play a part in public administration.
Laos has a complex mosaic of ethnic groups which include Mon-Khmer peoples such as the Bru, Kuy, Ngeq, Phong, Souei and Ta’Oi.
VIENTIANE TIMES/ASIA NEWS NETWORK