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Ministry of National Defense

The Lao People's Army (LPA), the armed forces of the country, is the product of the successful transition from a guerrilla army in the 1950s and 1960s to a conventional military organization with three branches of service (ground, air, and water). The term "liberation" was dropped from the nomenclature of the Lao People's Liberation Army (LPLA) after the army was restructured in 1976.

The Ministry of Public Security maintains internal security but shares the function of state control with the Ministry of Defense’s security forces and with the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP) and the LPRP’s popular front organizations. The Ministry of Public Security includes local, traffic, immigration, and security (including border) police plus other armed police units. Additionally, communications police are responsible for monitoring telephone and electronic communications. The armed forces have domestic security responsibilities that include counterterrorism and counterinsurgency as well as control of an extensive system of village militias.

As of mid-1994, the most powerful military officer in Laos was Lieutenant General Choummali Saignason, concurrently minister of national defense and commander in chief of the LPA. In addition to his military position, he was also the seventh highest ranking member of the ruling LPRP Political Bureau (Politburo). He took over as chief of the LPA in 1991 when General Khamtai Siphandon was elevated to prime minister. As a ranking member of the Politburo, Choummali is responsible for formulating both government and military policy. As commander in chief, he has absolute power over all internal and external security matters. All state security personnel, commanders of the air and naval forces, and police officials reported to Choummali.

The LPA is augmented by provincial forces, numbering 20,000 to 30,000 men and women, and the local militia, or Irregular People's Army, estimated at somewhat more than 100,000 men and women. Provincial forces receive little pay, have few weapons, and are minimally trained. They are under the operational control of provincial authorities for border control and internal security. The militia is lightly armed and receives no pay and little or no military training. The irregular forces are organized in their workplaces and local villages, have a role in local security, and act as a reserve for the regular armed forces. Promising recruits from the provincial forces and militia units frequently advance to regular army duty.

Armed Forces Personnel

YearArmyNavyAir Force

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Page last modified: 08-06-2012 14:06:28 ZULU