Lao authorities said the government would seek to review all current long-termed land concession agreements awarded to local and foreign investors after most of the awarded concessions were found to violate laws and regulations, causing widespread impacts on the people and the environment.
Prime Minister Office’s Minister in charge of the administration and protection of national land Kham-Ouane Boupha said that the implementation of the investment protection policy concerning land leasing or land concession would have to be reviewed because of problems in the concessions to both local and foreign investors. The Lao government has so far awarded a total of 1,126 land concession agreements, with 398 granted to foreign investors covering an area ranging from 8,000 to 50,000 hectares per concession.
Mr. Kham-Ouane said most of the land concessions have caused widespread impacts on people and the environment because, in many instances, they included villagers’ farm lands and, in others, caused widespread deforestation because conservation forests were annexed to the agreements.
Moreover, conservation forest land was included in the concessions for industrial crops plantation, instead of degraded lands as specifically prescribed in the regulations.
Mr. Kham-Ouane said the government’s secretariat had issued Announcement No. 743 to temporarily suspend the granting of land concessions nationwide beginning May 8, 2007, after finding that a lot of them did not comply with the laws and regulations.
The misuse of lands was attributed to the lack of proper land survey prior to awarding the concessions, to determine the suitability of the lands to be leased out and the crops to be planted. Nor was there a survey of market demands for the intended crops.Several massive land concessions also caused conflicts with the villagers due to the low compensation rate offered by the investors in return for their relocation.In the case of the City Development Project in the That Luang marsh awarded to a Chinese investment group, the land awarded was scaled back to 200 from the 1,600 hectares originally offered due to strong resistance from the villagers.
Songrit Pongern reported from Bangkok on 01 July, 2009. Listen to his report for more details in Lao, or read our Lao text. (English description by Songrit Pongern.)