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Environmental Crime Legal Framework In Laos

Article 19 of the constitution of Laos reads: “All organisations and citizens must protect the environment and natural resources: land surfaces, underground [resources,] forests, animals, water sources and the atmosphere.”

Laos’ Environmental Protection Law (EPL) specifies necessary principles, rules and measures for managing, monitoring, restoring and protecting the environment in order to protect public, natural resources and biodiversity, and to ensure the sustainable socioeconomic development of the nation. This law also mandates that the responsibility of environmental protection lies with the Prime Minister’s Office. The National Land Management Authority (NLMA) was integrated and upgraded to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) in 2011. The revised version of EPL was released on 18 December 2012.

Featured Legislation

1993:A ​​Decree on Establishing National Protected Areas was signed, demarcating certain areas for protection under Laos’ new regulatory framework.

1999:The Law on Environmental Protection (EPL) was first established, serving as the principal environmental legislation relevant at the national level. It specifies the necessary measures and regulations for managing, restoring and protecting the environment.

1999: The Law on Agriculture was introduced. The legislation determines principles, rules, and measures regarding the organisation and activities of agricultural production which is the basis of the country's economy.

2001: The Decree to Implement the Law on Water and Water Resources was brought into force, defining the structure of water resources planning and management at the national and river basin levels. The Decree states that Laos is: “responsible for coordinating line agencies in drafting of strategies and action plans, programs and regulations necessary for the planning, management, use and protection of water and water resources. It is also responsible for monitoring, control, promotion and reporting on the implementation of activities related to water and water resources.”

2002: The Decree on Sustainable Management was instituted. The decree identifies and establishes the management responsibilities for Production Forest Areas. It aims to establish principles that create sustainable management systems across the country.

2007: The Forestry Law was revised to address the need for stable forest resources to ensure protection of the Laotian people, environment, and water resources. The Law classifies forests into three categories: protection forests; conservation forests; and production forests.

2007: The Aquatic Animal and Wildlife Law was created to provide principles and measures for the protection, conservation, management, sustainable regeneration and development of wildlife and aquatic animals. It classifies wildlife and aquatic animals into three categories: prohibition category; management and control category; and common or general category for the purpose of protection and management. It states that the listed species in the category are endangered species and the habitat of those species needs to be protected.

2012: The Law on Environmental Protection (EPL) was amended,  defining  principles, regulations and measures related to environmental management. The legislation aims to address the impacts and pollution created by anthropogenic loads or by nature, providing balance between social and natural environments.

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • The illicit wildlife trade is rampant in Laos. Land-locked by Cambodia, China, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam, the country features many “hot spots” for the trade of resources and wildlife. In 2018: A Vietnamese businessman suspected of trafficking and trading in elephant ivory was arrested in Vientiane, the capital of Laos. Police raided a wood and furniture workshop owned by the businessman in Xaysettha district of Vientiane, discovering ivory products, elephant skins and products resembling rhino horns. Local citizens provided police with the tip, according to the Department of Combating Natural Resources and Environmental Crime (DCNEC) under the Ministry of Public Security. Reports reveal that approximately 13.5 kg of ivory products and other wildlife organs, including rhino and elephant skins were confiscated. Officers have also concluded that the elephant ivory originated in Africa, and was brought into Laos in order to be sent to China. Subsequent investigations will determine whether there is an illegal trafficking network or other persons involved in the trafficking and trading in Laos. The raid was conducted by DCNEC with support from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Bank. The culprit will be  penalized under Lao laws, as per legislation prohibiting the importation and exportation of wildlife under national regulations of Laos. Executive Order No 5 strengthens the management and inspection of protected species of fauna and flora in Laos, adhering to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora (CITES), to which Laos is a state party.
  • Laos viewed the recent COP26 as an unfair meeting among the attending nations, refusing to sign the agreement. In fact, Laos accused the pact of being unfair to developing economies because it fails to consider how vital forests are to developing economies. Laos still relies on forests and agriculture to produce food and reduce poverty, and the country needs to clear land and forests for the development of infrastructure, including roads, railway, schools and hospitals. Laos hopes to graduate from the least developed country status in 2026 and officials state that it is impossible not to destroy some natural resources at all while marching along a path to modernization.

References and Further Reading


Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Viengxai Manivong: