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," said Bounkeua.
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.