Vientiane Times, 5 January 2015
Residents of three villages along a road being rebuilt in Xaysettha district, Vientiane, are unhappy that city authorities have banned them from building homes on land alongside the road but some have started building anyway. One resident of Dongkhamxang village, who did not wish to be named, told Vientiane Times on Friday that his village is located in an area where construction is banned for 50 metres on either side of the road.
“We are very surprised that some new three-storey houses are now being built along the side of this road,” he said. “How can they go ahead with construction when the authorities have banned it in this area?” Some villagers are speculating that these may be relatives of high-ranking officials while others suggest they simply don’t care about the ban. City authorities made a survey of the land along the road last April, covering a stretch 11 kilometres long and 50 metres wide on both sides.
The three villages of Nahai, Dongkhamxang and Xiengda are located along this road in the That Luang marsh area, and houses and commercial property have been built on much of the adjoining land. Last year many villagers were surprised when the Vientiane authorities started to build a concrete road behind That Luang marsh to create a road link into central Vientiane, but were disappointed when they banned people from building houses on their own land.
Some officials said they were not planning to take the land away from people and were only surveying it to prepare for further development in the area at some point, but the future use of the land remained unclear.
It would be a great help to the families in the area if the authorities informed them of the true situation, the purpose of the 50 metre protected strips on either side of the road, and how long the authorities will take to develop them as they have said they would. Some people say that if the city’s development plans are unclear, restrictions should be cancelled and the land released to local residents so they can improve their living conditions, as the State encourages.
An official from Xaysettha district Office told Vientiane Times that the prohibition on construction in the three villages was announced by former Vientiane Mayor Mr Soukanh Mahalath and has been effective since April. This announcement has not been cancelled so the authorities will not allow anyone to build any more houses or shops. Families in these villages are now concerned that the authorities will grab their land and pay them limited compensation so they will be unable to purchase replacement land elsewhere.