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Land Disputes Remain A Challenge For Vientiane Authorities

Source: Vientiane Times

Land disputes have become one of the most difficult issues for authorities in the national capital because of growing demand for land, senior officials have said.

The lack of clear city planning has resulted in numerous investment projects being built on the land of villagers, many of whom refused to accept compensation at the rates offered by authorities.

Mayor of Vientiane, Dr Sinlavong Khoutphaythoune, told the Vientiane People’s Council recently about the challenges faced by authorities in compensating people whose land is needed to push forward development projects.

“You know the average economic growth in the capital is 10 percent per year, driven by the inflow of foreign investment, which requires more land for development,” he said.

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“Over the past two years, more than 10 mega projects have been started in the capital, including expressways, roads and other infrastructure projects.”

Around 2,000 families in the capital have been affected by the Laos-China railway and two expressways, including the Vientiane-Vangvieng expressway.

Investors are willing to begin work on projects right away so that they can finish them promptly as planned. Delays in the compensation process hinders the development of the capital.

Dr Sinlavong highlighted that a majority of residents whose land was acquired for projects have already received compensation, while some have demanded payment at higher rates, making it difficult for authorities to push the development of projects and boost economic growth.

Chairman of the National Assembly’s Law Committee,Mr Saithong Keoduangdy, told Vientiane Times on Tuesday that the capital and provincial authorities have been instructed to enact referenced compensation rates as a way to resolve this issue.

“We need to pursue the laws and regulations when addressing land disputes. Otherwise, we cannot resolve them,” said Mr Saithong, who is a member of the Vientiane People’s Council.

“According to regulations and laws, villagers whose land is taken for investment projects must be compensated in a fair and just manner, and the compensation must be made before the projects commence.”

One of the main problems that emerged in the past was that some projects began construction before the payment of compensation to affected families.

According to the Prime Minister’s Decree No 84 issued on April 5, 2016, the compensation package awarded to those affected by development projects must ensure that such people are provided with better or similar living conditions compared to their circumstances prior to relocation.

“We have to follow the PM’s decree so that all land disputes can be resolved,” Mr Saithong said, adding that authorities need to assess the payment rate based on reality and also understand the difficulties faced by affected families to enable them to have a decent life.

However, the lawmaker also called on affected families to understand the government’s position by not demanding too much compensation, since over payment could make it hard for the government to attract foreign investment.     

Laos is a least developed country in Asia with huge demand for investment to drive economic growth and poverty reduction efforts, so a clearer city planning regime, land allocation and short- and long-term strategies are essential for the country to address land disputes in the near future.