Immigration officials working at the second Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge in Savannakhet province – which forms the border with Mukdahan province in Thailand – have been ordered to stop the collection of immigration and service fees.
The Prime Minister’s Office last week informed the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Minister of Public Security, Minister of Planning and Investment, and the Savannakhet provincial governor of the change.
The order was made after it was learned that immigration officials were not complying with the President’s Ordinance on the payment of various fees at the border crossing.
The ordinance, dated December 26, 2012, outlines the fees to be paid to cross the border as well as an additional charge levied when people make the crossing outside of official working hours.
The Prime Minister’s Office issued the notice to halt payments at the bridge based on a report from the Ministry of Planning and Investment following its investigation of complaints by Savan Legend Resorts Sole Company Ltd.
The company complained that its employees and customers were being charged an unreasonable amount.
According to the report from the ministry, Savan Legend Resorts Sole Company Ltd paid fees each month. The company assigned employees to work with border officials to record the number of customers entering Laos each day.
The figures were summarised each month and payments were made into a bank account, based on the number of passengers and customers visiting the resort.
The fees collected by immigration officials at the bridge were recorded accurately. Immigration staff said they collected the fees in line with directions from higher authorities, but that there was no legal document authorising the charges.
The ministry said the fees charged by immigration officials had no legal basis and had been arbitrarily decided by immigration staff working at the bridge in Vientiane. The fees were ordered to be stopped following a petition by a company to the Mediation Committee in 2012.
To ensure the systematic management of immigration fee collection and charges for crossing the border during official overtime, the ministry suggested that a special pass be arranged for customers of the Savan Legend Resorts Sole Company Ltd. The Supervision Committee agreed to this and the company will contribute to the cost of setting the arrangement in motion.
The Prime Minister’s Office encouraged the province’s Finance Department to ask the company to accelerate the payment of 209.7 million kip, which it has yet to pay for overtime charges for its customers crossing the border.