The law provides for equal rights for all minority citizens and bars discrimination against them. Nonetheless, some societal discrimination persisted. Moreover, some critics charged that the government's resettlement program for ending slash-and-burn agriculture and opium production adversely affected many ethnic minority groups, particularly in the North. The program requires that resettled persons adopt paddy rice farming and live in large communities, ignoring the traditional livelihoods and community structures of these minority groups. International observers questioned whether the benefits promoted by the government--access to markets, schools, and medical care for resettled persons--outweighed the negative impact on traditional cultural practices. Some minority groups not involved in resettlement, notably those in remote locations, believed they had little voice in government decisions affecting their lands and the allocation of natural resources from their areas.
Of the 49 official ethnic groups in the country, the Hmong are one of the largest and most prominent. There were a number of Hmong officials in the senior ranks of the government and the LPRP, including one Politburo member and five members of the LPRP Central Committee. However, some Hmong believed their ethnic group could not coexist with ethnic Lao. This belief fanned separatist or irredentist beliefs among some Hmong. The government focused limited assistance projects in Hmong areas to address regional and ethnic disparities in income, which helped ameliorate conditions in the poorest districts.
Although there were no reports of attacks by the few remaining Hmong insurgent groups during the year, the government leadership maintained its suspicion of Hmong political objectives. Residual, small, scattered pockets of insurgents and their families remained in remote jungle areas. The government continued to reduce its efforts to combat them actively and continued to offer "amnesty" to insurgents who surrender, but because of their past activities, amnestied insurgents continued to be the focus of official suspicion and scrutiny. The government continued to refuse most international community offers to assist surrendered insurgents directly but allowed some aid from the UN and international agencies as part of larger assistance programs.