July 02, 2015

Lao Villagers Must Accept Land Compensation or Face Detention

Reported by:  Ounkeo Souksavanh and Joshua Lipes,  Radio Free Asia, June 22 2015

Authorities in the Lao capital Vientiane have threatened to detain a group of villagers if they do not accept compensation to vacate their land, which the local government has granted as a concession to a development firm owned by the former mayor’s daughter and son-in-law.

According to a complaint letter recently submitted to the Lao National Assembly’s (parliament) petition unit, nearly all of more than 500 families in Vientiane’s Xiengda village were forced to accept compensation of five million kip (U.S. $615) per hectare (one-sixth of an acre) or “face imprisonment.”

Only seven families have refused the compensation, which they say is a mere 10 percent of the land’s market value, and told RFA’s Lao Service they have faced constant harassment from authorities to accept the offer.

“The officials always come with policemen and tell us that if we do not accept the compensation, they will arrest us,” a member of one of the holdout families told RFA, speaking on condition of anonymity. 

A government committee of police officers, district authorities and officials from the Vientiane prosecutor’s office has been appointed to negotiate with the villagers about compensation for the land, where many have built their homes and lived for decades, despite lacking property titles.

RFA was unable to contact members of the committee for comment on the compensation scheme.

According to one villager, who also declined to provide his name, the Namatha Construction Company was granted the Xiengda concession “with the support of former Vientiane mayor Soukan Maharath … because the mayor’s daughter married the son of the company’s owner.”

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