Southeast Asia Globe, July 04, 2012
In a situation reminiscent of the blockbuster Avatar, a small ethnic group in Southern Laos is battling an international Singapore-based agribusiness, for the return of their land. Their faces are not blue. They are brown from hard work under intense sun, and they travel by open truck instead of flying dragons, but the farmers’ intensity and potential for dramatic conflict is equivalent to that of a Hollywood film. Puan is a thin, angular-faced man and unofficial leader of the five-man delegation of Nya Hitun/Yahern people that came to Vientiane in mid-April. He looked up, his sharp cheekbones catching the light and said, “We will die for our land”. The way things are in Laos at times, that might just happen. In the hard-line nation, protest is still banned and those who disobey are often arrested and disappear.