Vientiane Times, 6 August 2014
A resident of Khammuan province in central Laos has accused Phoukhiew Specific Economic Zone Project of providing unfair compensation to villagers who lost houses and land to make way for the project. However a senior government official has confirmed that the compensation was given in accordance with accepted principles.
The resident raised the issue through the hotline of the National Assembly (NA)’s ordinary session that ended recently, calling for the NA to inspect the issue. The resident stated that the private investment project has provided only residential lands but lands for cultivation activities were not provided as part of the compensation package.
Deputy Director General of the Land Administration Department under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Mr Anothai Chanthalasy told a press conference yesterday that compensation was made in accordance with principles approved by the Khammuan provincial governor. According to the principles implemented by a task force committee, unused lands (lands left without any cultivation or production activities) are compensated at the rate of 10 million kip per hectare. Rice fields resumed received compensation totalling 34 million kip per hectare, while residential buildings such as houses are compensated based on the assessment of the committee concerned, Mr Anothai explained.
Five villages were affected by the project. In addition, affected residents in some villages were also compensated with land along with the compensation in cash. Mr Anothai assured that all Lao citizens have the right to ask for clarifications in regards to issues of concern and even submit petitions against any projects that treat them unfairly, which is against the law. His assurance came in response to the Khammuan province resident who claimed that villagers who were affected by the Phoukhiew Specific Economic Zone Project do not dare to submit petitions against the project, saying they fear the consequences.
He stated that villagers should not be scared to present or submit petitions to relevant bodies against an element that commits actions which are contrary to the law, including actions that take advantage of local people. “Lao citizens have the right (to submit petitions) in accordance with the constitution,” he told the conference.
Yesterday’s conference was held in response to hotline issues raised by various sectors and members of the public, who voiced various issues of concern and sought official clarification. Six government organisations were invited to yesterday’s conference to respond to the hotline issues. It is the first time ever that the issues raised through the hotline have been responded to in such a short period of time and at a press conference. Hotline issues raised during the previous ordinary session were just compiled and sent to the relevant sectors, which later submitted explanations in document form and submitted them to the NA.