This man was the chief of the Hmong village where we paused during our trek for lunch. He offered his house so that we could eat lunch protected from the sun. As we learned from our guide, village chiefs are elected by the village every couple of years. They are responsible for communicating with the local government, delivering news and enforcing new policies.
There are elections, but only one political party. Laos is a communist country, but its flavor of Communism is different than that of Vietnam. People are hesitant to say anything bad about the government or question it. While in places like Vietnam and Cambodia people seem to complain about their corrupt governments quite a lot.
Read more about the three levels of hill tribes we encountered on this trek.