Ethnic leaders in Vientiane to discuss traditional customs

04 Feb 2011

The leaders of 49 ethnic groups gathered at Vientiane's National Cultural Hall for a two day workshop on, ‘Ethnic Groups and Customary Laws: A Human Rights Perspective'.

The event promoted an atmosphere of dialogue between central authorities and ethnic leaders to assess their role in helping Lao DPR meet its human rights obligations among ethnic communities.

Laos is one of South-East Asia's most ethnically diverse countries with ethnic groups split into three categories, the Lao Loum, who occupy the lowland areas, the Lao Theung, the ethnic groups in the middle terrain, and the Lao Sung, who live in the highlands. The smallest groups are the Xeak and Hanyi with less than a thousand people, with the largest being the Lao and Khmu.

Speaking at the opening of the meeting, Ms Kyoko Yokosuka, the UNDP Resident Representative (a.i.), said, “Together, the 49 ethnic groups of this country provide a rich cultural heritage and help to define the unique character of this country as a land that finds unity in its diversity… The challenge for the Lao PDR is how to maintain and promote the customary laws and heritage of its many ethnic groups in an age of modernity.”

Customary law defines community behavior and the place of the individual as a valued member of his or her community. It is the basis for social intercourse in each community. The customary law survey that was recently conducted is the first of its kind in Lao PDR.