Brief history of the National Assembly

Since the 18th century, the Lao people have been struggling for their independence. The Lao People's Revolutionary Party eventually achieved the complete liberation of the country on December 2, 1975 with the foundation of the Lao People's Democratic Republic and the establishment of the Supreme People's Assembly by a nationwide People's Representatives Congress.

The Supreme People's Assembly First Legislature had 45 members, of whom four were women. The Standing Committee consisted of Prince Souphanouvong who was President of the Supreme People's Assembly, Sisomphone LOVANXAY, Sithon KOMMADAM and Faydang LOBLIAYAO who were Vice-Presidents and Khamsouk KEOLA who was Vice-President and Secretary General. The First Legislature had three committees: the Constitution Drafting Committee, the Presidential Decrees and Election Laws Drafting Committee and the Planning and State Budget Committee. The role of the First Legislature of the Supreme People's Assembly was to build solidarity among all ethnic groups in the country in order to meet two objectives: to safeguard and build the Nation. The First Legislature achieved its political role in mobilizing and in building solidarity among all the people as well as safeguarding the benefits of the struggle for independence, by restoring the economy and the socio-cultural environment and in improving the postwar living conditions of all ethnic groups.

In addition, the People's Supreme Assembly, First legislature, adopted the Lao first 5 year Plan of Socioeconomic Development (19801985) and a number of new laws, such as the Law on the Council of Ministers, the Law on Local Administration Authority and the Law on Foreign Investment. The Assembly also deliberated other important issues for the Nation.

On March 26, 1989 Lao people elected the People's Supreme Assembly Second Legislature, comprising of 75 members, of whom five were women. Nouhak PHOUMSAVANH was appointed President, assisted by five permanent members in the Standing Committee and five committees: the Constitution and Law Decrees Drafting Committee, the Economy, Planning and Finance Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, the Cultural and Social Affairs Committee and the Cabinet of the Supreme People's Assembly. People's Assemblies existed at provincial and district levels.
The most important achievement of the People's Supreme Assembly Second Legislature was to fulfill its political role in drafting the first Constitution of the Lao PDR which was adopted on August 14, 1991, by the sixth ordinary session of the People's Supreme Assembly Second Legislature. The Second Legislature adopted 22 new and actively implemented a foreign relations policy, that aimed to enhance cooperation with parliamentary organizations at international and regional level with friendly countries.

The Lao PDR was admitted as a full member of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) during its 83th meeting in Cyprus; was an observer of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentry Organization (AIPO) and formed the Laos-Japan Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Association.

On December 20, 1992, members of the Third Legislature were elected and the Supreme People's Assembly changed is name to the National Assembly. The National Assembly, as a legislative organ, implements its rights and duties defined in the Constitution and the Laws on the National Assembly. The Third Legislature did not have regional assemblies and worked only at national level.

The National Assembly Third Legislature was comprised of 85 Members, of whom eight were women. The Third Legislature had Samane VIGNAKET as President, two Vice-President, an seven-member Standing Committee and six Committees: the Secretariat, the Committee on Legal Affairs, the Committee on Economy, Planning and Finance, the Committee on Social and Cultural Affairs, the Committee on Ethnic Affairs and the Committee on Foreign Relations. Moreover, the National Assembly Office assisted the Committee in their work.

During is term, the National Assembly Third Legislature organized nine ordinary and extraordinary sessions. The major issues deliberated by the National Assembly were: the definition and implementation of the public administration reform at central level; the adoption of the socioeconomic development of three laws; the establishment of groups of members and National Assembly offices in every constituency and the expansion of foreign relations policy.

During its twenty years of existence, improvements and progress were made and the National Assembly through its three legislatures, has successfully performed its rights and duties. The performance of each National Assembly legislature has been and important factor in the development of the Nation, especially during the renovation process of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party and each legislature has gradually contributed to the construction and strengthening of the People's Republic government.

An important landmark in Lao history, which shows the development of the People's Republic government, was the election of the National Assembly Fourth Legislature on December 21, 1997. The National Assembly Fourth Legislature is comprised of 99 members, 21 of whom are women. Samane VIGNAKET had been reappointed President and three Vice-Presidents have been nominated, including a woman.

The National Assembly Fourth legislature has a seven-member Standing Committee and six Committees: the Committee on Legal Affairs; the Committee on Economy and Finance; the Committee on Social and Cultural Affairs; the Committee on Ethnic Affairs; the Committee on National Defense and Social Order and the Committee on Foreign Affairs. In addition, the National Assembly Office assists the Standing Committee and the other Committees.

Elected on 24 February 2002, the fifth Legislature was composed of 109 members, including 25 women (23%), elected after a pre-selection process, by direct and universal suffrage. Each of the 16 provinces throughout the country formed a constituency, along with one constituency for the Xaysomboun Special Zone and another constituency for Vientiane Municipality (18 constituencies in all). Lao citizens of 18 years of age and over are eligible to vote. As a general rule there is one member for every 50,000 people with a minimum of 3 members per province. Samane VIGNAKET had been reappointed President and three Vice-Presidents have been nominated, including a woman. The fifth legislature amended the Constitution of the Lao PDR.

The National Assembly (Sixth Legislature) was elected on 30 April 2006 and comprises of 115 members, including 86 males (74%) and 29 females (25.2%). Mr Thongsing Thamavong has been appointed President and two Vice Presidents have nominated, including a woman. The National Assembly Standing Committee has been set up, comprising of nine members, including National Assembly President and two Vice National Assembly Presidents. There are six National Assembly Committees and one National Assembly Office: the Foreign Affairs Committee, the Laws Committee, the Economy, Finance and Planning Committee, the Defence and Security Committee, the Cultural and Social Committee, the Ethnic Affairs Committee and National Assembly Office. There are 17 constituencies in 17 provinces and one constituency in Vientiane Capital.

The National Assembly (Sixth Legislature) is the representative of the rights, powers and interests of the multi-ethnic people. The National Assembly is also the legislative branch that has the right to make decisions on fundamental issues of the country, [and] to oversee the activities of the executive organs, the people's courts and the Office of the Public Prosecutor.

It should be emphasized that the number of members of the National Assembly has been constantly increasing since the First legislature of the People's Supreme Assembly. The First legislature consisted of 45 members, 4 of them were women. The Sixth consists of 115 members, including 86 males (74%) and 29 females (25.2%). Currently the National Assembly Sixth legislature is fulfilling and enlarging its role and functions in compliance with the Law on National Assembly, which was promulgated in 2006.

The past achievements and activities are valuable lessons for the new legislature of the National Assembly as well for future legislatures. Every legislature of the National Assembly has adopted laws and regulations adapted to the pace of development of the People's Democratic government, thereby building the confidence of state officials and the Lao People from all social groups. This has brought the Lao people happiness and strengthened their respect for the Party and the State which have introduced a system where laws guarantee people's rights and obligations in society. To date, 78 laws were adopted and many promulgated laws were amended to fit the reality and the socio-economic development level.

The National Assembly of the Lao PDR has been admitted as a member of the following parliamentary organisations:

• Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) (1990),
• International Medical Parliamentarians' Organisation (IMPO) (1994),
• Asia Pacific Parliamentarians' Union (APPU) (1994),
• Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum (APPF) (1996),
• French Speaking Parliamentary Association (APF) (1996),
• Asia Pacific Parliamentarians' Conference on Environment and Development (APPCED) (1998),
• The Association of Asian Parliaments for Peace (AAPP) (1999),
• Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development (LAFPPD) (2003). The National Assembly founded the Lao Association of Parliamentarians on Population and Development (LAPPD) in the same year.

The National Assembly established Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Groups with ASEAN nations and friendly countries in 2003.