Vientiane Times, 13 August 2014
Some 38 families affected by a rubber plantation project in southern Xekong province have refused to move to a newly-developed community arranged for them, a senior government official told media last week. The 38 families claim that land in the area allocated to them is not fertile for cultivation.
But technical officials have confirmed that up to 80 percent of the entire area prepared for the newcomers is arable and good for cultivation, Deputy Director General of the Land Administration Department under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Mr Anothai Chanthalasy told a press conference recently.
He responded to the issue raised by an affected villager through the hotline of an ordinary session of the National Assembly that closed recently. Mr Anothai added that other 124 affected families have already accepted the compensation and moved to the new community. Authorities have approved more than 3,000 hectares of land to a Vietnamese investor for the rubber plantation project in the southern province with a 50-year concession period. The project partially covers an area in Lanam and Thateng districts.
The investor has paid out 1.4 billion kip so far to affected villagers in compensation, including developing the new area and necessary spending for daily living to enable the newcomers to adjust to their new homes. “District and provincial authorities have also allocated land (in compensation) for the affected villagers in accordance with regulations,” Mr Anothai told the press conference.
Following the claim by the affected villager through the hotline about infertile land, officials in charge have inspected the area and confirmed that 80 percent of the area is suitable for cultivation, he added. The remaining 20 percent that contains sand and rock located along natural rivers is not accounted for as compensated agricultural lands, according to him. Head of office under the Agriculture and Forestry Department of Xekong province Mr Visian Balamy told Vientiane Times that a similar compensation policy, agreed to by those affected villagers who have already moved to the new community, has been prepared for the remaining 38 families.
Land-related disputes, including those affected by investment projects, have been an emerging issue in recent years. It [land-related disputes] has been one of the common issues raised by members of the public through the hotline of the recent ordinary session of the National Assembly. Since the hotline was opened and run from July 7-25 along with the session, various people made 524 calls to voice their concerns plus seek explanations and clarifications from the government’s relevant sectors. Other common issues raised via the hotline are the poor condition of various roads, slow payment of salaries for state employees, illegal logging and shortage of electricity and its high price.