Relatives of Lao villagers killed or left missing by the July 2018 dam disaster have received compensation from the government, government officials have confirmed.
The disaster, described as Laos’ worst flooding in decades, occurred when a saddle dam at the Xe Pian Xe Namnoy (PNPC) hydropower project collapsed, inundating 12 villages and killing at least 40 people in Champassak and Attapeu provinces, leaving many more missing.
Attapeu Province Governor Leth Xayaphone confirmed the payment to RFA’s Lao Service on Monday saying, “According to law, we’ve paid a lump sum in compensation to the families who lost their loved ones.”
The governor added that the PNPC consortium has an insurance policy of about $50 million.
Compensation for property losses or damages have meanwhile not been approved yet because an official investigation into the collapse has not been concluded.
On Wednesday, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a press statement stating that a Special Task National Relief Committee had approved compensation of $10,000 per person to families of those missing or killed during the disaster.
The statement also indicated that there were a total of 31 people missing and 40 confirmed deaths. The committee also recommended PNPC, SK E&C, a South Korean company in the consortium, and the insurance company conduct a ceremony to hand over the compensation to the relatives and families of the victims as soon as possible.
The ceremony of the payment to the bereaved families was held Saturday in Sanamxay District, Attapeu province. The day before, local authorities and families of the victims also conducted a Buddhist ceremony for the dead by offering alms to monks.
“We’re not very happy about the $10,000 compensation,” said Bang Manichanh who lost both her grandparents in the disaster. “We have no choice but to accept it. They never talked to us, never asked us how much we wanted.”
Another victim, Bounnhok Keowai, who lost his 26-year-old son and his 5-year-old grandson also expressed his resentment. “They gave us $10,000 each, but it’s not enough,” he said.
“We can’t resist and we can’t say anything. It’s the same amount whether for the old, the young, the dead or the missing. That’s not right,” he said.
On August 20 last year, the Lao government paid $180 for funeral costs to the families of each deceased victim. The official death toll when these payments were disbursed was 39.
At that time, a staff member of the Sanamxay District confirmed the payment to RFA, saying, “That’s the initial compensation. Our government gives 1.5 million kip ($180) for each person dead or missing.”
Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by RFA’s Lao Service. Written in English by Eugene Whong.