Customary Law and Practice in Lao PDR
About this report
With 49 officially recognized ethnic groups, Lao PDR is a multicultural and multiethnic society where customary law remains an integral part of people’s daily lives. Traditional, informal rules and practices have developed over centuries and are being followed by people within their ethnic groups, with a significant impact on ways of thinking and behaving. These informal rules and practices constitute customary legal systems, which serve as conflict resolution mechanisms by means of mediation or arbitration. Often these customary systems are the most common access points to justice, especially for people living in rural and remote areas.
As the first of its kind, this survey report on customary law practices in Lao PDR represents a national milestone as it considers the role and impact of existing customary practices on the overall legal system. It “demystifies” customary laws and recognizes that this customary form of justice can coexist with and be integrated in the overall formal system. This survey also fills an important gap in providing reliable data and records of customary legal rules and practices.
The Ministry of Justice, in partnership with UNDP, established the Customary Law Project in 2008 with the central objective of fostering understanding and encouraging harmonization between formal and informal legal systems. The present report summarizes the findings of a wide-ranging survey on customary norms and practices, conducted in 2009, covering all 49 officially recognized ethnic groups in all 17 provinces of Lao PDR.
This comprehensive report shall promote the reorganization of informal legal systems as an integral part of the overall legal framework of the country. The findings of the survey will ultimately pave the way for developing a strategy to ensure that customary practices, including informal systems for the settlement of disputes, are harmoniously integrated with the state legal system, not only respecting cultural and ethnic traditions but also in line with international principles of the rule of law and human rights standards.