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

Full land rights policy expected

Vientiane Times, 1 August, 2013

Law and policy makers have recommended full recognition and ownership over land use rights for people who inherited lands from their parents over generations, even though they have no land titles. The recognition matter was debated at the fifth ordinary session of the National Assembly’s (NA) seventh legislature, which closed on Friday when the law makers shared ideas to develop the draft National Land Policy. Parliamentarians said it was the government who was slow in issuing land titles to people, notably those in rural communities.

The government originally set a target to issue one million land titles over the five-year period from 2011-2015, but only 705,000 titles have been issued over the past 16 years since the issuance programme began in 1997. The 705,000 land titles represent only 30 percent of total plots nationwide, and the parliamentarians said it would be a challenge for the government to finish issuing the titles by 2020 as planned. People who have no titles have always been disadvantaged when their lands are affected by concessions for development projects as they have received unreasonably low compensation due to the absence of a title deed, many NA members said.

Parliamentarians welcomed the draft, which recognises the ownership over land use rights of those without land titles, expressing the hope that once the draft is approved, it will help address the emerging land dispute issue. NA Economic, Planning and Finance Committee Chairwoman, Dr Souvanpheng Bou phanouvong, who is also a member of the policy drafting committee, said once the concept is agreed upon and the draft is approved, this group of people will enjoy equal r ights as those having the titles. Many members agreed that local people’s ownership of  land use titles “should be recognised”. NA member for Borikhamxay province, Mr Bounseng Pathammavong, said land disputes that affected local people have been reported in his province, especially among those who have no official documents. Although without land title, an NA member for Luang Namtha province, Mr Kongphet Keobouapha said usage rights for people who have inherited it from their parents should be recognised. If approved, people can expect to enjoy fairer compensation as stipulated by the new land policy.

According to the drafted policy, compensation for those lands taken for commercial projects will be based on market prices, while those whose lands which are required for public projects will receive reasonable compensation.

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