11 July 2023 :
More than 500 prison inmates have been sentenced to death in Laos – some more than a decade ago – but the country’s dysfunctional legal system and unclear prison procedures have left the inmates languishing for years, the country’s minister of public security said.
Many of the inmates were convicted on drug charges and have had their sentences reduced to life in prison, Lt. Gen. Vilay Lakhamfong, head of the Ministry of Public Security and deputy prime minister, told lawmakers at a National Assembly session on July 6, 2023.
Authorities have even released some inmates who had originally been sentenced to death, which hasn’t helped Laos make any headway on combating illicit drug production, trafficking, and related criminal activity, he said.
“Lao laws do not mandate where and how to execute them, by firing squad or by lethal injection,” Lakhamfong told lawmakers.
International organizations oppose the two execution methods, he said, adding that about 90% of Laos’ death-row sentences are drug-related.
“They don’t want us to do that; therefore, we have to keep them in jail and give them life sentences,” Lakhamfong said.
Laos has not officially abolished the death penalty, though the last known execution, done by shooting, occurred in 1989, according to the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty. In the past, authorities never disclosed the number of prisoners put to death, the crimes they had committed, or the places of execution.
Now government and legal bodies involved in drafting laws are updating death-sentence procedures and are expected to complete their work by year end, Lakhamfong said.