Corruption 'Worse' in Laos Last Year, Sources in Country Say

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A municipal worker sweeps a pathway near the Mekong River in Laos's capital Vientiane in a Dec. 12, 2013 photo.
A municipal worker sweeps a pathway near the Mekong River in Laos's capital Vientiane in a Dec. 12, 2013 photo.

Corruption in Laos, thought last year to be coming under control, grew worse in 2017 despite widely publicized government efforts to rein in profiteering officials and financial waste, sources in the country say.

In a report released on Feb. 21, 2018, corruption watchdog Transparency International ranked Laos 135th out of 180 countries surveyed last year, dropping 12 places from 123rd place in a survey done the year before.

Corruption still pervades all sectors of life in the one-party communist state, from illegal logging to deliberate cost overruns on construction projects to the paying of bribes to obtain government services in day-to-day life, sources say.

“Corruption is everywhere, it has become a tradition,” a resident of the capital Vientiane told RFA’s Lao Service.

“For example, if you apply for any service, you have to attach a white envelope including ‘tea money’ of about [U.S. $7]. Otherwise, you will experience a long wait,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Corruption has grown worse because people’s salaries are too low. No one can live on them,” a resident of one of the country’s southern provinces told RFA. “At the same time, people want to show off their luxury lifestyles, and especially their cars and houses.”

Police officers in the country’s northeastern Xieng Khouang province regularly demand bribes because their pay is so low, the source added.

Millions lost

Speaking to RFA late last year, a senior Lao government official said that the country’s government had lost U.S. $50 million to corruption in 2017, three times more than it had the year before.

“There is more corruption now because the government inspects and cracks down only on the ‘small fish,’ never on the ‘big fish,’” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

And though the governor of southeastern Laos’s Attapeu province was removed from his post in November because of involvement in illegal logging, and the governor of the country’s northeastern Xieng Khouang province was dismissed amid similar charges in February, corruption persists at official levels, sources say.

“Fraud occurs in development projects in which dishonest officials embezzle state funds and assets, including money for schools and health services across the country,” an inspector in Laos’s State Audit Authority told RFA, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Last year, over a trillion kip (about U.S. $44.8 million) was lost last year in development projects “through the violation of laws and financial disciplines by government bodies and the private sector,” according to a March 15, 2018, report by the online edition of the Vientiane Times.

Construction in Laos’s construction industry “is getting worse,” Bounthong Chitmany, deputy prime minister and head of the Lao National Anti-Corruption Agency, told the country’s parliament, the National Assembly, in a meeting in October.

“For example, the real cost of building a one-kilometer length of road is only [U.S.] $400,000, but the government ends up paying $1.7 million. Thus, $1.3 million is lost,” he said.

“The loss to corruption is massive,” Valy Vetsavong, a representative to the Lao National Assembly from the capital Vientiane, told a meeting in the parliament in November.

“Officials, businesses, and investors are all accomplices,” she said. “These people are bad.”

Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Max Avary. Written in English by Richard Finney.

Comments (9)

Lao citizen

from laos

I felt very sorry for the poor people in Laos. They have no voice, all Laos governments official are so corrupted. How are the government officials and their family can afford to have a half million or more US dollars new home being build plus driving their $60,000 luxury when everyone knows they don't make that much from their job. Lao people need to open their eyes and come together to question their own governments from the top down, including the corrupted prime minister. The poor are so poor and the corrupted rich governments are display their rich lifestyle so very openly. I hope the world can see that and ended these commi regime very soon.

Sep 30, 2019 02:50 PM

Anonymous Reader

The police are the worst. They are like a bunch of hungry and thirsty wolves. I just came back from Laos and let just says, I will never go back there again. The police much rather harassed tourists than arrest criminals. Why arrest a local criminal when you can't get money out of them? Laos police are just a bunch of gangster extorting money from tourists.

Jul 16, 2018 11:38 AM

Anonymous Reader

Laos is so corrupt. Police takes bribe and force people of US especially the Hmong people to give them money. Going to the Vientiane airport, my luggage was re-inspect again for no particle reasons. They want you to pay them money. It's all about how much money they can extort out of you. The police are the worst. They are worst than a bunch of gangsters. They will charge you for the dumbest thing hopping you will give them money. I will inform all people I know not to visit Laos.

Jul 16, 2018 05:17 AM


from Vientiane

No wonder why too many teachers throughout the country who give the children education receive no salary. They work 2-3 years without pay. That's ashame on the Lao government. Lao government should be shameful to the world. This is why one party control is terrible. Government does not care as long as they benefits.

Mar 28, 2018 12:55 PM

Anonymous Reader

How does that saying go? The fox guarding the hen house. Corruption exists at the very top. No one is held accountable. Everyone does it including the Laos president. Oh, I mean Prime Minister. It's not like other countries where individual get into politics to serve the people. In Laos, people get into politics in order to get a government position to collect bribes or come up with public project or service schemes to extract as much money as possible from the government treasury. Only people in government positions drive nice cars and live in nice homes. Ordinary wealthy laotians can't drive nice cars or live in nice homes. Shake down or jail time. In one party system, only those at the top can fluent it! Travelers, tourists and vacationers be very careful displaying any sign of wealth. You'll be sorry!!!

Mar 23, 2018 02:12 PM

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