Vientiane Times, 28 July 2014
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has confirmed that all villagers affected by the Luang Prabang airport expansion project will receive compensation.
Deputy Director General of the Land Administration Department Mr Anothai Chanthalasy on behalf of the ministry responded to a question raised by affected families in Phakhom village in Luang Prabang province.
The villagers said they have proposed to relevant authorities to pay their compensation but the issue has yet to be addressed despite the airport project having already been completed.
Mr Anothai said his ministry has coordinated with the relevant sectors aiming to address the concerns of the villagers. In fact, Luang Prabang authorities have set up a committee to take charge of compensating the affected villagers. He said the authorities have prioritised the affected villagers over the total 677 land plots covering a number of villages affected by the project before paying compensation.
In the first instance compensation is paid only to families whose houses and land plots have been affected by the project, aiming to ensure that these people are able to build new houses and continue their livelihoods. These families have been given a 15m x 20m land plot per household in an area nearby the airport. Their houses and growing land have been compensated for in cash. Vacant land plots will be compensated for later on, which includes the 77 land plots in Phakhom village.
Mr Anothai said the authorities wanted to pay compensation for these affected villagers straight away but they encountered financial difficulties, causing compensation to be delayed until now. He expected that authorities will be able to compensate the rest of the affected families in the 2015-16 fiscal year, saying that villagers should not worry too much as they will definitely be compensated.
The government decided to expand Luang Prabang airport in response to the growing number of tourists visiting the World Heritage town despite the project affecting many families. However, they are committed to ensuring that all these families will receive their compensation. With the value of construction at more than US$86 million, the upgraded airport is now able to accommodate bigger aircraft, especially Boeing 737s and Airbus 320s in response to national development needs.
Since the new expansion project has been completed, more flights have landed in Luang Prabang with a rising number of tourists to the province, generating more income to boost provincial development. In 2013, the number of overseas visitors in the province reached 343,000 and the province set its ambitious goal for tourist arrivals at 500,000 this year.