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28 Nov 2023

Radio Free Asia

Laos: Assembly rejects special economic zones bill for failure to specify how zone will be supervised

"Lao assembly rejects SEZ bill", 28 November 2023

A draft law that sought to exert greater government control over Special Economic Zones in Laos was rejected by the National Assembly because lawmakers felt it wasn’t specific enough, sources in the country told Radio Free Asia.

The move comes amid concerns about the nearly non-existent oversight that Lao authorities have over the zones, called SEZs, that have drawn foreign investors, particularly from China, to set up casinos and scam-related businesses. They have also become a magnet for human trafficking.

The Golden Triangle SEZ in the northern province of Bokeo, for instance, has been described as a lawless, de facto Chinese colony that Lao police have virtually no control over.


But many lawmakers expressed reservations during a National Assembly meeting on Nov. 16 and 17, saying they felt the proposed law didn’t go far enough and didn’t specify how the zones would be supervised, or state the rules by which foreign nationals living in the areas would be governed. 

“The drafted law focuses only on promotion of investment but doesn’t mention about the supervision, management and governance of the SEZs at all,” Ketkeo Sihalath, a representative from the capital Vientiane said.