Political System in Laos
The Lao PDR is one of the world's few socialist states openly endorsing communism. The only legal political party is the Lao People's Revolutionary Party (LPRP). With one-party state status of Laos, the General Secretary (party leader) holds ultimate power and authority over state and government and serves as the supreme leader. As of 22 March 2021 the head of state is President Thongloun Sisoulith. He has been General Secretary of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party, a position making him the de facto leader of Laos, since January 2021. The incumbent head of government is Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone. Government policies are determined by the party through the eleven-member Politburo of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party and the 61-member Central Committee of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party.
Laos's first French-written and monarchical constitution was promulgated on 11 May 1947, and declared Laos an independent state within the French Union. The revised constitution of 11 May 1957 omitted reference to the French Union, though close educational, health and technical ties with the former colonial power persisted. The 1957 document was abrogated in December 1975, when a communist people's republic was proclaimed. A new constitution was adopted in 1991 and enshrined a "leading role" for the LPRP.
Local Laws and Customs:
Carry an ID document or passport at all times. You will receive a heavy fine if you do not present ID on request.
Do not get involved with drugs. There have been a number of occasions where British nationals have suffered fatal overdoses from very small quantities. Possession, trafficking and manufacture of drugs are serious offences. Those caught face lengthy prison sentences or the death penalty.
The Lao government prohibits sexual relationships between foreign and Lao nationals, except when the two parties have been married in accordance with Lao family law. Permission for marriage or engagement to a Lao national must be submitted in a formal application to the Lao authorities. Penalties for engaging in prohibited sexual contact or failing to register a relationship range from US$500 to US$5,000 and may involve imprisonment. It is not unknown for Lao authorities to demand entry into hotel rooms or guesthouses where they suspect this regulation is being broken.
There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organisation of LGBT events in Laos. LGBT Pride was held by ‘Proud To Be Us Laos’ in 2012 and 2013. However, progress was stopped after their partner organisations became concerned about the reaction from government. Proud To Be Us Laos continue to raise awareness about LGBT rights and HIV/AIDS among the LGBT community.
Photographing or visiting military sites is prohibited and can result in arrest or detention. This includes photographing anything that can be perceived as a military site like bridges or airfields.
When visiting temples and religious sites, shoulders and knees should be covered, guidance will only be posted at major locations but, should be observed at all. It is not considered appropriate to walk around in public while wearing swimming costumes after leaving waterfalls, rivers or swimming pools.
Conditions in prisons and other detention facilities are harsh, with limited access to healthcare. If a British national is arrested and detained in Laos, the Laos authorities must inform the British Embassy on the prisoner’s formal request. However, it can take several weeks or months for the British Embassy to be formally notified and the Embassy often learns of an arrest informally from friends or family.