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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Visas available at Attapeu checkpoint

Visas are now available on arrival at the Phoukeua international border checkpoint, which is located in Attapeu province at the border of Laos and Vietnam.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Consulate Department technical official, Mr Daophet Chanthalasin, yesterday said promoting the tourism industry was one reason for the change.

He said many tourists visiting southern Vietnam wanted to visit Laos by entering the country at the Phoukeua checkpoint, but were turned away because they could not obtain visas there.

Phoukeua became an international border checkpoint in January this year and is located close to where Laos , Vietnam and Cambodia meet. Mr Daophet said the three countries were developing an economic triangle, and the visa changes could help promote trade cooperation.

Visas on arrival in Laos for the citizens of certain countries were first available in 1990 at Wattay International Airport and then in 1994 at the Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge between Vientiane and Nong Khai.

“Making visas available on arrival was initially aimed at facilitating visits of delegations between Laos and its neighbours, but now it also aims to boost tourism,” Mr Daophet said. There are now 19 international border checkpoints in Laos , but visas on arrival are only available at 16 of them, according to the Consulate Department. You can not obtain visas on arrival at checkpoints in Oudomxay, Saravan and Xekong provinces.

Oudomxay authorities have asked the government to allow visas on arrival in their province.

But Mr Daophet said facilities in that location were below required standards, because there was not a suitable supply of water or electricity, and there were no offices for officials.

“Before we arrange to provide visas on arrival, we have to ensure there is enough demand and there are between 100 and 200 people getting the visas each month,” he said.

“Otherwise, it will waste time and money.”

Mr Daophet said Saravan and Xekong provinces also wanted to offer visas on arrival, but they did not meet the required standards either.

More than 100,000 visas on arrival are issued to tourists in Laos every year.

The majority of these are issued at Wattay International Airport , the Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge between Vientiane and Nong Khai, and the Vangtao border checkpoint, located in Champassak province on the border of Laos and Thailand .

The government recognises three types of border checkpoint in Laos .

An international checkpoint can be used by Lao citizens and citizens of all other countries.

A local checkpoint can be used only by the citizens of two neighbouring countries.

A customary checkpoint is used by people living in the neighbouring provinces of two countries.

Laos has more than 100 customary checkpoints. As more people start to use these checkpoints, they will be developed into local and then international checkpoints.

By Somsack Pongkhao
(Latest Update June 11, 2008)

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