Some families – 35 out of 235 – get compensation for Lao golf resort

Officials say the big project will bring tourists and jobs to the area.
By RFA Lao
2023.10.03
Some families – 35 out of 235 – get compensation for Lao golf resort A golf course project, seen Aug. 1, 2023, is under construction in a Lao special economic zone in southern Champassack province.
RFA

Thirty-five families who lost their homes and land to a golf course project in southern Laos have been compensated, but another 200 families have yet to receive anything, state media reported.

The 35 recipients, from Muang village in Champassack province’s Khong district, received a total of 13 billion kip (US$636,000, or an average of about $18,000 each), as their land is leveled and grass is planted for fairways, bunkers are dug out and clubhouses erected. 

The golf resort is in a nearly 10,000-hectare (24,000-acre) special economic zone that has received Chinese investments totalling about $9 billion. It is touted by its supporters as a way to revitalize the local economy through tourism. 

But the case repeats a pattern of inconsistency in major Lao development projects. Those who have not been compensated worry about when they will be paid – if ever.

“These people won’t get any of the benefits from the golf course,” one villager told RFA Lao on condition of anonymity for security reasons. “They are poor villagers, common farmers. They will not get anything from the project.”

Another villager who lives close to the resort said it will likely open soon.

“The golf course development is progressing fast,” the second villager said. “I heard that many villagers lost land to this project, but I don’t know much about the villagers’ compensation.

Greener pastures

A former provincial official said that in the long run, the development will benefit the region and people by bringing tourists and jobs.

“The golf course is so huge so that’s why it is affecting so many,” he said. “It’s all for tourism. Those who have money want to play golf. It’s a game for rich people, so that’s a part of tourism.”

An entrepreneur who operates a tour service in the district said it would be great for business once the project is complete.

“There will be loads of Chinese people coming here to play golf, because this is a Chinese project, not a Laotian one,” he said. “It will be mostly foreigners who come to play golf in this special economic zone that belongs to the Chinese investors.

Much of Laos’s recent economic growth has been generated through land concessions to China, Thailand, and Vietnam to exploit natural resources including timber, agricultural products, minerals, and energy. 

But the policies have sparked friction over cases of environmental pollution and land taken without proper compensation.

Lao villagers affected by land grabs often fear to speak out publicly over their concerns because they fear official retribution.

Translated by Sidney Khotpanya. Edited by Eugene Whong.

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