Residents Voice Concern Over Rising Crime in Laos

Motorbike theft caught on CCTV in Vientiane Capital.
Motorbike theft caught on CCTV camera in Xaythany District, Vientiane Capital.

A sharp rise in the incidence of theft, robbery, and gun violence has led residents in Laos to take to social media and voice their concerns.

Viral clips of motorbike theft have become a nightly occurrence, while bag snatching and robbery have become all too common in urban centers nationwide.

Once considered a relatively safe and sleepy city, residents say Vientiane Capital has changed amid the economic downturn, with a limited police presence at night.

“I avoid riding my motorbike at night because I don’t feel safe. Streetlights are rarely on anymore and it’s very dark in Vientiane. I never see police on patrol, either,” one resident told Laotian Times.

“The news is full of reports of robbery and bag snatching these days. I’d feel safer in a car but I only have my bike,” she said.

Collages of CCTV footage and clips featuring motorbike theft and other crimes have gone viral on social media, with residents asking what is to be done.

Rising Cost of Living Fuels Petty Crime

Laos has been facing growing economic troubles, struggling with public debt and a shortage of foreign exchange. The cost of living continues to rise, while the value of the country’s local currency has plummeted.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) reduced its economic recovery prediction for Laos this month, lowering its April growth prediction from 3.4% to an expected 2.5%.

According to the regional development institution, Laos’ inflation rate jumped to 30% in August, with inflationary pressures causing an increase in commodity prices.

Economic strife, as well as the completion of major construction projects, has led to higher unemployment, with many young Laotians leaving the country to seek work in Thailand or elsewhere in East Asia.

Monks at Khankeung Temple in Pakse reported their temple bell stolen yesterday morning.

Region Flooded with Methamphetamines

A resumption of transnational crime following the reopening of borders has seen the region flooded with methamphetamines and other drugs, with police in Bokeo Province making the nation’s third-largest bust ever last Friday.

Laos declared drug enforcement a national agenda in May 2021, calling for decisive action and the participation of multiple sectors to combat the narcotics threat.

At the same time, human trafficking, wildlife crime, and other regional threats have begun to spiral out of control, with several embassies in Laos issuing warnings to their citizens against travel to areas in northern Laos.

Victims of human trafficking in Laos have begun to speak out, leading to victims of families of trafficked persons staging a protest outside the Laos Embassy to Malaysia this week. The families say their loved ones have been duped into traveling to Laos on the promise of good job opportunities, only to fall prey to scam syndicates that incarcerate workers and force them to work in horrendous conditions.