The internal armed conflict with predominantly ethnic Hmong rebel groups continued in 2005. The fate of hundreds of Hmong civilians who surrendered to the authorities was not known. At least four prisoners of conscience remained in detention and one long-term political prisoner died in prison. Reports of torture and ill-treatment continued. An increasing number of death sentences were handed down, but no executions were known to have been carried out. Two people were sentenced to prison terms for refusing to renounce their religion, and suppression of religious practice continued in several provinces.
Assessment of the human rights situation was hampered by continuing restrictions on freedom of expression and severe limitations on access by independent observers and human rights monitors to the country.
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women recommended in January that domestic violence and rape be made criminal offences in Laos.
In June Laos ratified two International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions for ending child labour. However, Laos still did not ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which it had signed in December 2000.
The World Bank gave the final go-ahead to the Nam Theun 2 dam project, despite continuing concerns raised by environmental groups on its possible impact on the thousands of people needing resettlement and the livelihoods of many others.
Opium poppy cultivation and opium production continued to decline substantially, as Laos moved towards the goal of becoming opium-free by the end of 2005. However, concerns arose that this had resulted in an estimated 65,000 members of upland Lao communities being displaced to areas where their basic needs were not met.
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