Savannakhet bridge immigration fee ruling not yet enforced
Immigration staff at the Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge, which links Savannakhet province to Mukdahan province in Thailand, are still waiting for instructions from the provincial office about ending the collection of immigration and service fees.
Head of bridge operations, Mr Bounkham Phutthichak, told Vientiane Times by telephone yesterday they had heard about the order from the Prime Minister's Office requesting the cessation of the collection of fees. He had met with authorities from the provincial office and was now waiting for the necessary documents from the office.
“Before the order was issued by the Prime Minister's Office, at weekly meetings I told all officials at the bridge not to collect fees, especially at immigration, because it wasn't in line with the President's Ordinance on the payment of fees at the border crossing,” he said.
“But some immigration officials continued to collect fees without issuing a receipt, especially when they thought people crossing the bridge didn't know the regulations. Some of them sometimes asked for 20,000 kip or more when people were departing from the Lao side. ”
When he gets an official document from the provincial office, he can use it to ensure that all immigration staff comply with the order.
The information will also be made public on the departure side of the bridge and the notice will be posted up so that everyone understands the situation and will not pay an immigration fee, Mr Bounkham said.
Normally, a payment is only made at the customs booth, such as when crossing the Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge from Vientiane to Nong Khai province in Thailand.
People are required to pay 10,000 kip during official working hours (8am to 4pm) and 20,000 kip at other times.
This fee is stated in the President's Ordinance and the money collected goes directly to the national budget.
The ordinance also states that adults aged over 60 and children under 12 are exempt from the fee, Mr Bounkham said.
Miss Tou, who lives in Vientiane and went to Savannakhet to attend a wedding last weekend, said “I and my relatives crossed the bridge to Mukdahan province in Thailand. Immigration officials on the Lao side charged me 200 baht or 50,000 kip and then I had to pay another 300 baht on the Thai side.”
“When we returned from Thailand in the evening, there was no charge on the Thai side. But when we crossed over to Laos, I had to pay 20,000 kip at immigration and one of my relatives had to pay 300 baht or just o ver 70,000 kip,” she added.
The Prime Minister's Office issued a notice at the end of last month to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Minister of Public Security, Minister of Planning and Investment, and the Savannakhet provincial Governor, with the message to be passed on to immigration officials working at the Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge in Savannakhet province.
The order was made after it was learnt that immigration officials were not in compliance with the President's Ordinance.
The ordinance, dated December 26, 2012, outlines the fees to be paid to cross the border as well as an additional charge levied when people make the crossing outside of official working hours. The system is implemented by the customs sector.
By Times Reporters
(Latest Update April 6, 2017)