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

PM pushes for strict land management

Vientiane Times: December 26, 2017

Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith has urged all sectors and authorities to close loopholes in the use and management of land, saying land should be protected for successive generations.
Mr Thongloun stressed the importance of the proper management of land when addressing a national meeting on land issues last week.
He said the consequences of lax land management had persisted for many years. Public bodies had not carried out the necessary oversight and inspection of land after concessions were awarded to private companies, while companies could acquire any land they wanted, the prime minister said.
Mr Thongloun asked if district governors and village chiefs had the right to authorise concessions, and what were the rights of authorities at the provincial and central levels.
He reminded those present about the granting of land concessions by local authorities for banana plantations, which he said had resulted in the loss of forests, while growers had contaminated the land with chemicals.
Some specific cases had been identified, while many others had yet to be uncovered.
Mr Thongloun said strong measures should be taken in instances of misconduct. He cited a case of land encroachment in Champassak province where the authorities said they would take legal measures against the encroacher.
He discussed the legal definition of concessions, saying that in some cases, where the length was originally set at 70 years, some investors asked for their concession to be extended to 90 years.
“Seventy years is too long for a concession,” the prime minister said. He instructed officials to inform investors of the law in Laos, saying that if they wanted an extended term they should go to another country.
“There are plenty of loopholes. If we let this situation continue without doing anything, people will protest, and the international community will view us in a negative light,” he added.
Although there had been problems involving land for many years, the prime minister said it was not too late to start taking land management seriously, starting right now.
He said the policy of handing over land and forests to communities was the right way to encourage them to protect, manage and make use of land for the purposes of development and poverty alleviation. But, he said, the implementation of this policy was not carried out correctly in some provinces. The granting of land to people without educating them had in some cases proved useless as they had sold the land and felled the forests, while still remaining impoverished.
“People should understand that by owning land they can rise above poverty,” he said when referring to the importance of educating villagers.
He praised the implementation of Prime Minister’s Order No. 15 on Enhancing Strictness in Timber Management, Inspection, Timber Exploitation, Movement, and Timber Business by sectors and local authorities over the past two years.
The order had succeeded in limiting the logging and export of wood.
“The order has been applauded by the public and encouraged people to pass on information about illegal logging and trade in wood,” he said.
Mr Thongloun said the Land Law should be widely implemented but stressed that all activities must be carefully managed. The law should not be used as a legal tool to cheat people, he said.

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