Lao government officials have launched a new push against corruption in the one-party communist state, with state inspection authorities stepping up investigations across the country and reporting in February that they had discovered up to $120,000 missing from state funds, sources in Laos said.
As much as $850,000 was found missing from the budget of Xayaburi province alone, one local source told RFA’s Lao Service.
More than 100 people, including 86 government officials, have meanwhile been taken into custody and charged with fraud or embezzlement, according to official media.
On April 26, Xayaburi’s Provincial People’s Court sentenced five ruling Party members and government officials to unspecified jail terms for corruption.
Meanwhile, on May 2, a court in Oudomxay province handed down stiff penalties, unspecified in media reports, to 13 senior executives of 12 companies who had embezzled several hundreds of thousands of dollars from state funds, according to an April 26 report by the Thai newspaper The Nation.
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The companies had been involved in running fake or “ghost” construction projects, and had exaggerated the costs of repairs done to roads, schools, and hospitals damaged last year by landslides and floods, an official of the Oudomxay People’s Court told the Lao newspaper the Vientiane Times on April 24.
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 Laos, 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.