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

Government aims to address land related issues

Vientiane Times, 6 May, 2013
The government is committed to ensuring that the compensation provided to villagers affected by land development projects is done in such a way that villagers are satisfied with the outcomes. The move is aimed to address land disputes in Laos, which have been an ongoing issue as villagers sometimes feel that they don’t receive appropriate compensation for land lost to development projects.

Director General of the Land Administration Department within the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Mr Siphandone Sihavong, told Vientiane Times last week that if land compensation is paid in accordance with market prices, all the problems can be resolved. In fact, Prime Ministerial Decree No.192 stipulates that land compensation for any affected villagers needs to ensure that those people enjoy improved livelihoods after relocating to other areas.

Unfortunately, the decree is not enforced properly, causing many affected villagers to complain as they that they have not received adequate compensation for the land taken away. Many villagers became poorer after losing their land to development projects, due to inappropriate compensation.

Given the importance of reparations for land lost, the government issued a decree last year which asked the relevant sectors to review the compensation process in order to ensure that it is appropriate, thereby avoiding further issues and grievances. Mr Siphandone indicated that under the new policy, villagers will have a more involved role in the development projects as they will be given an opportunity to convert their land to shares within the development projects or take cash payments instead, as they see fit.

Now, for some development projects, the authorities are purchasing land plots from the original owners before allowing any development to take place, which results in less disputes than if villagers see the value of their land rising before they receive compensation at a later date.

Last week, the government approved a draft National Land Policy to provide guidelines for the management and development of land resources in a bid to address the issues that are arising. Once the policy enters into force, some aspects of the land law and other legislation which are contrary to the new regulations will need to change so that it is easier for the enforcement process to take place. It also addresses the current realities of the land situation in Laos.

Meanwhile, the government will review the fees charged for land leasing and concessions because some fees for land classifications are too low and the government receives very little revenue from the projects. The current issue is that development projects begin before land allocation and planning takes place, which makes it difficult for authorities to locate appropriate plots. Urban planning in Laos is often affected because of this.

Some projects take a long time to compensate villagers because authorities and those in affected communities need to agree on a compensation rate, causing delays in the project’s development. In others, authorities are unable to complete the compensation process for villagers even after the project has finished. Land holdings are directly related to the livelihoods of many people in Laos and although investment projects are good for the country’s economy, they are unsuccessful if villagers are made poorer in the process.

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