Vehicle Gift from Vietnam to Laos Raises Eyebrows Amid Taxi Legal Woes

Vehicle Gift from Vietnam to Laos Raises Eyebrows Amid Taxi Legal Woes
The donated vehicles (photo: Lao Security Magazine)

Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security recently donated 50 vehicles to Laos to support the country’s role as the 2024 ASEAN chair, aiming to enhance safety and security measures during its tenure.  However, this generous act has raised questions about whether the Vietnamese taxi service in Laos is using this as a means to avoid legal repercussions after a significant number of road accidents.

The donation, including Vinfast’s 20 cars and 30 motorcycles, was handed over in Vientiane Capital on 18 March. Despite the goodwill gesture, the donation has raised questions among Lao residents. Many wonder if the handover of so many vehicles was an attempt by Xanh SM, a Vietnamese taxi service in Laos that employs Vinfast vehicles, to avoid legal consequences after several incidents involving its taxi drivers went viral across the country’s social media platforms.

“After this, we can expect these taxis to get away with even more of their mess than they’ve already done so far ” commented a Facebook user.

“I see this as a win-win situation for both sides. Police officers get to try out new EV cars and Xanh SM gets to continue their business” another user added.

Xanh SM, a taxi service, was launched in Laos on 9 November 2023 and has since been embroiled in several small to moderate road accidents. However, the most significant incident involving the company occurred just four days after the service kicked off when one of its drivers attempted to sexually harass a female passenger. The driver reportedly took the girl to a hotel room in Vientiane Capital, but she managed to escape and promptly report the incident to the police.

Shortly after the case went viral on Facebook, the company issued an official apology, stating that it would temporarily suspend the driver while pledging not to let a similar event happen again.

Since this incident, the company has faced growing criticism for its alleged lack of quality checks on drivers, including screening on their driving behavior and ability to adhere to traffic rules, with many calls for shutdown from the residents, Xanh SM remains operational in Laos. 

Although some may perceive Vietnam’s recent vehicle donation as an indirect attempt by the taxi company to curry favor with the Lao government to sustain its operations, it’s evident that the donated vehicles will serve a valuable purpose for Lao authorities. Furthermore, they align with Laos’ ongoing mission of decarbonization, a key objective as the nation assumes the ASEAN chairmanship this year.

The concerns highlight potential issues of legal accountability and enforcement, casting a shadow over the otherwise positive gesture aimed at enhancing Laos’s capacity to ensure safety and security during its ASEAN chairmanship.