Working towards greater community control over land, forests and natural resources

Gov’t to get tough with dishonest land concession holders

Source: Vientiane Times, April 28, 2017
http://www.vientianetimes.org.la/FreeContent/FreeConten_Govtto.html
The government will use tougher measures to regulate concession projects by withdrawing land if no progress is made on the proposed project, while also pushing for authorities at various levels to participate in the process.
ThatlungSEZ
Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith on behalf of the government made the promise yesterday in response to National Assembly (NA) members’ queries concerning issues surrounding land concessions, which were raised at the ongoing debate session.
The government acknowledged that many concession projects have been awarded, but investors often did not fulfill their obligations with regard to the contract and relevant laws. Many acquired land for the purpose of handing it over to other investors, thereby making a profit.
“If an investor who has been given a concession is found not to proceed with the stated project in the time frame agreed, I ask local authorities to actively investigate and report their findings to the government,” Prime Minister Thongloun said.
He urged the relevant ministries to urgently take action when they received a report indicating possible misconduct.
The issue of investors refusing to obey the requests of local authorities was also raised by Assembly members. In response, Mr Thongloun said concession deals and other development project agreements made at the central or local level must be signed off by local authorities.
Also up for discussion was encroachment onto state land by investors in addition to the land area stated in the concession contract.
“In this case, local authorities have the right to use measures directly to prevent encroachment at the first stage before it continues any further. The authorities should not wait for orders from the government,” Mr Thongloun said. “If local authorities are unable to influence the situation, please inform the related sector or ministry so they can deal with the matter,” he added.
Taking possession of land without putting it to good use not only delays the country’s development but denies other developers the opportunity to use land productively.
“If land is handed over and no development takes place, it will be withdrawn. I want the business sector to understand this,” the prime minister said.
“Effective investment and the implementation of development projects that follow the law will help to strengthen the economy,” he added, noting that the government would not allow a monopoly in investment, but supported competition.
Mr Thongloun told Assembly members that the government had carried out a study on the positives and negatives of the Law on Land, saying a lot of shortcomings were uncovered.
The government is improving its policies before submitting them to the Politburo, which is expected to propose a resolution by the Party Central Committee in order to tackle the issues surrounding land use, according to Mr Thongloun.

Chinese company to build modern agricultural industrial park in Laos

Source: Xinhua, 26/4/2017
http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2017-04/26/c_136236572.htm
VIENTIANE, April 26 (Xinhua) — Lao Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with China’s Xuanye (Lao) Co., Ltd/AVIC International Beijing Co., Ltd on a modern agricultural industrial park project in Laos.
The agricultural industrial park will serve as a supporting project to the under-construction China-Laos railway, building a regional center of agricultural products trading, warehousing and logistics hub platform.
Speaking at the signing ceremony on Tuesday, Lao Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Lien Thikeo said since the launching of the Chinese-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, many Chinese enterprises have come to invest in Laos with constructive proposals, providing new impetus and direction of development to Laos to turn the country from a land-locked to a land-linked country.
The ministry is expected to cooperate with Xuanye to build a demonstration of modern agricultural industrial park in Laos, with the construction of the China-Laos railway to deepen bilateral trade cooperation and accelerate the transformation of Lao agricultural sector.
Previously, local government of Lao central Savannakhet province signed an agreement with Xuanye on a 2,000-hectare plantation demonstration.
After over two years, the demonstrative plantation zone is helping export Lao rice to China, and through the implementation of Chinese standards and technology, the farmers are changing the habit of slash-and-burn cultivation with low yield while maintaining the “green and organic” characteristics of Lao rice.
Chairman of Xuanye (Lao) Co., Ltd Xu Guowu said that the Belt and Road Initiative has refreshed the China-Laos cooperation with a new international cooperation platform, helping many developing and under-developed countries to enter the “fast lane” of development.
Both sides will conduct research later mainly on China’s agricultural technology and its market demand for Laos’ organic eco-agricultural products, technology innovation cooperation in Laos.

Lao companies to benefit from railway project: Officials

Source: Vientiane Times,April 21, 2017

http://www.vientianetimes.org.la/FreeContent/FreeConten_Laocompanies.htm
Officials in charge have confirmed that Lao construction companies will benefit from the almost-US$6 billion railway project linking Vientiane to the Chinese border.

Director of the Laos-China Railway construction project and Director of the Lao National Railway Company, Dr Koung Souk-Aloun, told Vientiane Times on Wednesday that a list of 59 companies has been submitted to the Chinese side for selection.

�We have sent them [the Chinese side] 59 companies, not 20 companies. The selection process is underway and hopefully Lao companies will be hired to undertake some of the work on the railroad project,� he said.

Xayaboury to Halt Banana Plantations mid This Year

The northern province of Xayaboury has decided that as of mid-this year, no more Chinese investments in banana plantations will be allowed. Currently, there are over 520 ha of banana plantations in the province.

Chinese banana plantation investments are suspected as the cause of several problems including the over-use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides which have failed to comply with required standards, thus affecting local communities and the environment.

Ministry to closely monitor agri-business

Vientiane Times, February 7, 2017.
http://www.vientianetimes.org.la/FreeContent/FreeConten_Ministry.htm

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry will this year closely monitor domestic and foreign investment in this sector as it believes that many companies have not implemented the agreements made or complied with stipulated feasibility study methods.The ministry will strictly apply management measures to investors and companies that have made no progress with their proposed projects or had an adverse impact on local communities and the environment.However, the ministry has not revealed the numbers and names of the companies concerned, the ministry reported at its annual meeting in Vientiane at the end of last year.Last year, 733 domestic and foreign companies agreed to invest in the agriculture and forestry sector in Laos with total investment of US$3.55 billion while US$1.74 billion of registered funding was allocated to land concessions on about 467,980 hectares.

Some 107 companies invested in livestock projects with funding of US$338.88 million, 345 companies invested in agriculture with funding of about US$1.22 billion, 232 companies invested in tree plantations with funding of about US$1.96 billion, and 49 companies ploughed US$34 million into service sector projects.

PM vows to address chronic land issues

Vientiane Times, February 6, 2017

Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith has pledged to find solutions to the many land issues that have emerged and the government has formed a task force committee to investigate the problems and resolve them.

The committee will investigate land concessions, the transfer of land use rights in various cases, implementation of the government’s policy to turn assets into capital, and the occupation of land by local people among other concerns, after these issues have caused land disputes and problems.

Kasy town to be relocated to make way for railway

Vientiane Times January 3, 2017

By Khonesavanh Latsaphao

The urban centre of Kasy district in Vientiane province will be relocated to an area near the Kasy road to allow for construction of the Laos-China railway.

A plot of flat land located in the Kasy road area has been allocated, requiring the relocation of about 400 houses and government offices that currently line Road 13 North.

Director of the provincial Public Works and Transport Department, Mr. Soumountha Somchanmavong, told Vientiane Times on Friday that dirt roads have already been built in the area where the town will be relocated.

What can be done to mitigate the harmful effects of mining?

Vientiane Times, November 7, 2016

http://www.vientianetimes.org.la/sub-new/Opinion/Opinion_what260.htm

Mining operations are proliferating in Laos but many of them are not utilising environmentally friendly practices, adversely affecting local communities and failing to comply with government regulations. Vientiane Times went to the National Assembly to ask members about their experiences of these issues in their home constituency.

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