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New Government Hotline in Laos is Unpopular as Callers Fear Retribution

Source: Radio Free Asia

Laos’ Ministry of Home Affairs has launched a hotline that citizens can call for government assistance, but many are afraid to use it because callers must reveal personal information.

After dialing 1526 to report an issue, callers must also provide their names, phone numbers, and addresses so that police or officials can contact them if they require more information.

“If they call asking authorities to solve a particular problem, the police can call them back easily after the issue is investigated and solved,” a related government official, who like all sources in this report requested anonymity for security reasons, told RFA’s Lao Service. 

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The official said since the hotline was launched on June 1, many have called asking for the ministry to solve problems and others have called to comment on the work of the ministry, but she was not at liberty to discuss how many people have called or what any of their requests were.

The Lao government has been using hotlines for public engagement since 2016. The country’s National Assembly also has an open hotline where people can raise issues for it to address.

But several Lao residents said they were reluctant to use the new hotline because they doubt the ministry can do anything to solve the problem, and they do not want to get in trouble for reporting problems.

“If you ask for help from the government in a one-party country, and ask them too many times, it’s not good for you,” a resident said. “You have to reveal all your personal information so everybody is afraid to call.”

Another resident said he was not interested in using them because hotlines in the past were ineffective in solving problems.

A third villager said that usually nobody answers government hotlines so it is useless to call them.

A Lao resident who identified as a Christian said that Christians have used hotlines once in a while to inform the ministry when they are harassed by local authorities. 

Sometimes officials come to try to solve the problem but most of the time the complaints are ignored, the person said.

“The good part of using the hotline is that we can inform the ministry of problems that we are concerned about and need them solved,” the Christian said. “However, many problems are still not solved … they always say they are still working on it”

A Lao intellectual told RFA that most people do not trust government hotlines because they are afraid of retribution. For example, if they were to reveal government corruption, the responsible officials could use the power of their positions to punish them.