Following several reports on social media of officials accepting bribes via brokers for issuing passports, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has taken stock of the situation and promised to take action.
Head of the Consular Department, Mr. Amphaivanh Chanthavong made a statement on Monday during the Ministry of Foreign Affairs press conference regarding the issuance of passports and the practice of passport bribes involving brokers assisting individuals to get their passports in exchange for money.
In response to the news published on social media, Mr. Amphaivanh said that accepting bribes for issuing passports is against the law and an inspection will be conducted to check if any consular workers have a connection to external brokers and have been receiving money from them. If anyone is found to be guilty of accepting bribes in exchange for processing passports, they would be penalized for the same.
Furthermore, the department head also encouraged the public to be eyes and ears of the government in reporting any suspicious behavior to the Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs so that they can take preventive measures and address the problem.
On 20 February, the Department of Consular Affairs will also begin testing an online booking system for residents to make appointments to get their passports made and appear for related interviews as there has been a growing demand among Lao citizens to obtain this vital piece of document that would allow them to travel the world.
According to the consular department, the staff has been mobilized to continue working until 6 pm, which is longer than their normal working hours every day to collect information from over 500 individuals per day.
Although a large number of interviews can be done in a single day, only 800-900 passports can be published in one day. To meet the public’s needs, the passport publishing unit has been instructed to operate until 9 pm every day, including weekends so that they can publish at least 1,200-1,300 passports a day.