Country Listing

Laos Table of Contents



One of the first priorities for the LPDR was restructuring defense and security forces and improving effectiveness in these new roles. After the major Mekong River towns were liberated, soldiers were assigned police duties, although they lacked the necessary training. As the pace of political change quickened and the government became increasingly concerned about security, the public expressed dissatisfaction with heavy-handed military controls, Pathet Lao arrogance, and the excesses committed by some guerrillas.

The emphasis on discipline, training, and reorganization reflected the difficulties encountered by the former Pathet Lao cadre in converting from a guerrilla insurgency into a national security force. Men taught to think of urban-dwelling lowland Lao as their bitter enemies found it difficult at first to treat them as liberated brothers (see Lowland Lao Society , ch. 2). Also, most young Pathet Lao guerrillas brought in to keep order in the Mekong towns were members of upland minorities who had never before been confronted with the temptations of city life (see Upland Lao Society , ch. 2). Consequently, there were reports of abuses such as extortion and robbery by drunken Pathet Lao police officers.

By the end of 1976, an effective police force had been established. Its mission was simple: to maintain basic law and order and strictly enforce government policies, often with little regard for human rights. A police academy was established at the former United States-built police school at Ban Donnoun, ten kilometers east of Vientiane, where Vietnamese and Soviet instructors began teaching Laotian cadres basic police procedures. The crime rate reportedly was very low.

The academy also trained a Laotian secret police organization similar to the Vietnamese internal security apparatus. The secret police were to provide internal security for the party and to look for dissidents within the population: those individuals who disagreed with the LPRP's pro-Vietnamese line and who expressed pro-Chinese or Laotian nationalist sentiments that could be construed as anti-Vietnamese. By late 1978, there were reportedly 800 Vietnamese secret police in Laos engaged in military and civilian surveillance activities. By the late 1980s, their presence had been reduced to a few senior advisers.

Data as of July 1994