Lao Villagers Face Eviction From Dam Sites After Refusing ‘Unfair’ Compensation

2017-03-29
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A map showing the location of Champasak province in southern Laos.
A map showing the location of Champasak province in southern Laos.
RFA

Residents of three villages in southern Laos are facing forced removal from their homes by the end of March if they fail to move from the sites of planned dams to an area they are calling unsuitable for farming, sources in the Southeast Asian country say.

Over 100 families in Champasak province’s Xe-Namnoy, Houaysoy, and Namleng villages have been told to leave to make way for construction of two dams—the Xe-Pian and Xe-Namnoy—being built along the Mekong River.

Only about 20 families have moved to an assigned relocation site at Rasasinh, about 10 km. (6.2 miles) away, though, while over 80 others are now building houses without permission in an area closer to their original homes, one villager told RFA’s Lao Service.

“We do not want to move to the area provided by the government and project developer,” RFA’s source said, adding, “The villagers are preparing to build new houses by themselves around an area beside the project.”

“The area provided by the government is not suitable for farming,” the source added, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Many villagers who had previously accepted government-assigned plots at Rasasinh have already moved away, the source said.

“We can’t grow anything there, not even cucumbers. We will be poor if we continue to live there,” he said.

Requests refused

Villagers are also unhappy with the rates of compensation offered by the government for their land, another source said.

“What has been offered is too little compared to the value of their crops and the fruit trees they will lose to the hydropower projects,” the source said. “They cannot use this money to buy enough land to continue to live.”

“The villagers have asked the relevant authorities for compensation at least equal to the amount they will lose,” he said.

Requests for more money have been rejected out of hand, though, with police and soldiers threatening villagers who refuse to move, sources say.

Reached by RFA by telephone on March 27, officials in Champasak’s Paksong district, in which the villages are located, refused to comment on the case.

Controversial projects

Laos and many other Asian countries are on a dam-building spree as they try to harness the power of the Mekong and other rivers.

While the Lao government sees power generation as a way to boost the country’s economy, the projects are still controversial for their environmental impacts and financial arrangements.

According to International Rivers, an environmental advocacy group, the current Lao hydropower development plan includes 72 new large dams, 12 of which are under construction and nearly 25 in advanced planning stages.

The Lao government says the dams will help pay for anti-poverty and other social welfare programs, but International Rivers asserts that much of the power generated by Laos is sold to neighboring countries and then resold to Laos at higher rates.

Reported by Ounkeo Souksavanh and Lanxang for RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Lanxang. Written in English by Richard Finney.


Comments (7)
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MuuPa

from Vte

There are all kinds of corruptions in these big projects, especially dams. Lao leaders are squirreling away their ill-gotten gains in foreign banks. Go down the list of Govt officials associated with these projects and look at their families' houses, bank accounts, cars, land holdings, etc. These are the beneficiaries of the projects. Ordinary Lao people are just their slaves and indentured servants. Yes this is why we no longer have Sombat helping us.

Apr 20, 2017 09:11 AM

Lasmy

from Xekong province

I am a Lao-indian living in Xekong province for 39 years. What I have seen in the southern of Laos is very terrible when it comes to the land concession or the relocation plan of Lao government. People in the south are simply considered animals, who can be forced to move from their own houses and villages like we do with the dogs. What a sad moment in life under this communique regime!

Mar 31, 2017 10:46 AM

Lao Boy

from La la land

Foreign aids to this barbaric system needed to be stopped. Don't listen to the communist rhetorics, they are just lies and lies...they must be accountable for their stupidity.

Mar 31, 2017 12:46 AM

MisaoFan

The few remaining people in the country who simply wanted socio-agricultural and economic reforms to slowly evolute the Lao society in a natural way are often persecuted, this is exactly what happened to Sompawn Khantisouk and Sombath Somphone (particularly the latter), both of which disappeared and never to be seen again and enforced disappearances is the biggest social problem that is challenging Laos.

If Laos wanted to be good it should seriously take serious reforms in every aspects; communism is not compatible in a society involving tribal cultures living individually with their own customs and it's not working in Laos apart from making some progresses if we compare from say 90s to right now.

To turn Laos into a good country it must have the following, due to historical legacy even:
-a multi-party democracy
-a parliamentary political system with ceremonial head of state. It is possible for it to further cut off corruption.
-an economy that needs to be taken care of, not just obsessing over economic growth.
-a respect for all ethnic groups and let them do whatever they want
-alleviating poverty through use of Sombath-style socio-agricultural reform techniques.
-upgrade all forms of existing infrastructure. Constructing new things should be second priority.
-foreign aid should be limited to at least half even though the country itself is underdeveloped
-denouncement of a Lao-Vietnamese Special Treaty of 1977 a forgery
-preservation of neutral policy due to historical reasons.
-respect for all religions and make Buddhism a state religion again due to historical reasons.
-remove communism from premises since the way it is applied in the country is not very well done, let alone properly.
-a free media with creation of independent outlets even though private media exists.

That's what I got in mind. There's plenty of other things I'm going to say but those I write above are very important.

Mar 30, 2017 03:52 PM

Anonymous Reader

To MisaoFan.
Sir, I like reading your comments about what happened in Laos. I think you can also go to the Lao section as there are more news and leave your comments. But if you'd rather stay on the English section it's fine. No sweat Sir.

Mar 31, 2017 07:27 AM

Viengsavanh

from Xiengkhuang

People are becoming poorer and poorer, but the investor are getting richer and richer. What a sad story in modern Laos

Mar 30, 2017 10:53 AM

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