The current President of Laos
Khamtai Siphandon is the leader of the People's Revolutionary Party, the only legal political organisation in Laos. His regime is dictatorial and has control of the country's newspapers, television and radio stations and electronic media. Little information is available about his life before entering politics other than that he attained the rank of General in the country's army.
Before coming to power in 1988, Khamtai Siphandon was the chief propaganda officer of the People's Revolutionary Party. He is currently serving his third term in office as President after being appointed to the post by members of his party. Although there are popular elections for regional party members there is no direct presidential election.
Throughout the presidency of Khamtai Siphandon the People's Revolutionary Party has been attempting to decentralise government control to regional authorities. The party has also attempted to encourage private enterprise and tourism in order to improve the state of the country's ailing economy. At one point the national currency, the Kip, was worth almost nothing. Currently the exchange rate with the dollar is around 4000 Kip/$1 US.
Khamtai Siphandon's term in office has seen several bombings by unknown anti-government factions. These took place between March and December in the year 2000. The attacks ocurred in the capital city of Vientiane, and in the cities of Savannakhet and Pakse.
There is much international opposition to the President due to his poor record on human rights. One of the worst known cases of human rights abuse was the murder of eight people, including five children aged between 7 months and 12 years old, and three adults, one of whom was a 65 year old woman.
Khamtai Siphandon is also responsible for the imprisonment, torture and execution of his political opponents and anti-government activists. This practice is known as "disappearing" in many countries due to the fact that victims simply disappear without a trace after being abducted by government forces.
The human rights organisation Amnesty International has condemned Khamtai Siphandon and the People's Revolutionary Party for their blatant disregard for human rights.
The government of the United States of America intended at one point to extend Most Favoured Nation Trading Status to Khamtai Siphandon's regime. Following an outcry by human rights activists the plan has been "put on hold" for the time being.
Web sources and further information:
Lao Human Rights Council - http://home.earthlink.net/~laohumrights/
Genocide: America's Double Standard - http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/Lobby/4621/
CIA World Factbook: Laos - http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/la.html
BBC Country Profile: Laos - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/country_profiles/1154621.stm