Chinese businesses investing in Laos are quickly buying up land for factories, hotels and other development projects, as China’s influence continues to grow in the impoverished, landlocked country to its south.
“A lot of Chinese are buying land for future investments,” a real estate agent in the Lao capital Vientiane told RFA on Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons.
“The price of land near the Vientiane railway station is 2,500 Thai baht ($70) per square meter, and the land listed with my company has now almost all been sold to the Chinese.”
Foreign investors looking to buy land in Laos are required for now to make the purchase in the name of a Lao citizen with legal residency in the country, Lao sources told RFA, also asking for anonymity in order to speak freely.
“One Chinese businessman came to Dan Xang Village in Vientiane’s Xaythany District and legally married a Lao woman there,” another real estate agent in the capital said.
“Later, the Chinese bought 10 hectares of land in the name of his wife and then built a hotel resort, karaoke bar and restaurant there that are now patronized mostly by other Chinese,” he said.
A landowner in the Phon Hong District of Vientiane Province said that he has already sold one hectare of a 9 –hectare plot, but is refusing Chinese offers of 300,000 baht ($8,337) per hectare to buy the rest.
“This price is too low, so I’m not going to sell it, and I’m waiting for other offers to come in,” he said.
Also speaking to RFA, a landowner in Vang Vieng, a popular tourist town in Vientiane Province, said that he had been approached by Chinese investors asking to buy or lease his land for use in storing minerals waiting to be transported by train to China.
“Apart from my land, there is no more land left for sale in the area surrounding the Vang Vieng Railway Station because the Chinese companies have bought it all,” he said.
Chinese businesses are now looking to buy land in Vientiane close to a station of the new $6 billion high-speed railway linking Laos with China, a real estate expert told RFA, also declining to be named.
“They want to build hotels, apartments and restaurants on the land within a radius of 200 meters from the station, which will be the center of a new and modern city planned by the Lao government,” he said.
“It’s expected that a lot of Chinese businesspeople will be coming to work and live in that new city,” he added.
Reports have increased in recent years of growing resentment in Laos over Chinese business presence in the country, over Chinese casinos and special economic zones linked to human trafficking and crime, and over the often high-handed treatment of Lao workers by their Chinese bosses.
China is Laos’ largest foreign investor and aid provider, and its second-largest trade partner after Thailand.