Laos issues new anti-corruption decree

Associated Press
January 6, 2000

BANGKOK — Laotian Prime Minister Sisavath Keobounphanh has issued a decree to combat corruption in the ruling Communist party, the civil service and military, diplomats said Thursday.  The decree follows a drive against graft in sister-state Vietnam, which has made it a top priority because of widespread concern about top officials enriching themselves in the emergent market economy.

The decree was passed in November but was only publicized this week in the state-dominated press in Laos, a one-party state which is one of the world’s poorest countries.

The decree aims “to make transparent the operations of all party, state and mass organizations … to protect the benefits of the state, collectives and individuals,” the official KPL news agency reported Wednesday.

The decree targets abuse of power by officials for embezzlement, fraud and bribe-taking. It applies to civil servants, staff of mass organizations and the party, Laotian diplomats abroad, military, police and state enterprise managers and technicians.

A Western diplomat in the Laotian capital Vientiane said the decree, which follows a similar one issued in 1993, would have little effect without implementing legislation to accompany it.

Pasason newspaper said public servants would be suspended from their jobs if they were accused of corruption and would be liable for punishment under the Laotian penal code.

The diplomat said corruption has increased notably in Laos in recent years, where civil servants earn tiny salaries in dollar terms. Large infrastructure projects, such as in hydropower, offer the potential for large-scale graft.

There is disaffection within the country that party leaders are enjoying more fruits of the fragile economic growth of the past decade than the wider, mostly rural population.

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