Working towards greater community control over land, forests and natural resources

Govt needs to examine land compensation, experts say

Vientiane Times, July 17, 2012

Land compensation for villagers affected by some development projects in Laos has been found to be inappropriate and contrary to the law, according to the observation of land experts on Monday. A senior land expert Dr Palikone Thalongsengchanh told Vientiane Times yesterday that land disputes have arisen as officials did not follow the process of providing appropriate land compensation for villagers whose land is resumed. “Our law stipulates that land compensation for affected villagers who have to give up their land for development projects needs to be sufficient to improve their livelihoods,” he said. “But we have observed that many villagers get poorer after losing their land for development projects, due to inappropriate land compensation.”

The land experts urged the government to review development projects where land disputes with villagers were reported, as well as examine the enforcement of land legislation, particularly relating to compensation. Officials who are found guilty by extracting benefits from development projects need to be punished based on the related laws. Land disputes have become a more pressing issue in Laos as investors seek to purchace more land for development projects. In recent years, foreign investors have flocked to Laos to do businesses but many projects have intruded onto villagers’ land, forcing them to relocate in order to allow the development projects to go ahead. The approval of land for development projects was done without a detailed survey and allocation process, causing the projects to intrude into conservation forest areas and lands of local villagers.

It is a common complaint among villagers that they did not receive fair compensation for the land they lost to make way for development projects.  According to the National Assembly (NA) last week, land disputes were the main issue raised by the public on the NA hotline. Members called for the government to take this issue into account by ensuring that villagers have a better life after receiving compensation for their land. During the NA session last week, Minister of Planning and Investment Mr Somdy Duangdy accepted that people’s land rights had been breached by some projects in the past due to the absence of thorough surveys and proper land allocation.

That’s why the government announced during the session that they would not consider any new investment proposals regarding land concessions for mining, or rubber and eucalyptus plantations, until 2015. The move was taken in order to allow it to review the existing projects and formulate regulations to address the problem in the long term. Meanwhile, the government will speed up the survey and allocation of land, in order to identify which areas are suitable for investment, and which areas should be preserved to minimise the impacts on the livelihoods of local people. Laos has about 1.6 million land plots but so far only 300,000 plots have been titled. The government plans to complete the land titling process by 2015, in order to address land disputes in Laos.

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