Bounkeua Vongsalath, Deputy Director of Land and Natural
Resources Information and Study Center of the Ministry of Agriculture and
Forestry of Laos, admits that unqualified land concessions nationwide have brought more losses than benefits to the government, while local villagers have
been widely affected by the concessions of non-surveyed lands.
"The Lao government receives between $2 and $6 a year per
one hectare of lands granted. Most of the lands have not been surveyed before concessions
were granted to private firms, subsequently creating conflicts between these firms and
local people whose lands become overlapped by concessions. A recent study by
the Center found more negative impacts on the people from land concessions,"
Vientiane's land concessions to foreign investors have become
problematic because several parts of concessional lands encroach upon
villagers' farmlands as well as national conservation forests. The problem was
discussed extensively by Laotian lawmakers at the seventh session of the Lao
National Assembly's Sixth Legislature last month.
From 2000 until the end of 2008, the Lao government has granted
almost 400,000 hectares of land to foreign investors.
However, to ease this problem, the government approved the
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry's plan to define 300,000 hectares of land
in nine provinces for rubber plantation, the ministry's recent report said.
According to the plan, the ministry defined rubber
plantation areas in provinces of Luangnamtha, Oudomsay, Bokeo, Bolikhamsay,
Khammouane, Savannakhet, Saravan, Champasak and Attapeu.
Prior to this, the ministry has already awarded a Vietnamese
company a concession to plant rubber trees on 120,000 hectares of land in the southern
provinces of Saravan, Champasak and Attapeu.
The Vietnamese firm plans to build a rubber processing
factory for export within the year 2010 in Attapeu, as part of the Lao
government plan to promote Laos as the world's top rubber exporter by 2020.
songrit Pongern reported in Lao and summarized in English.