New Laos Law Could Strip Rights from Indigenous People

by admin on October 30, 2018

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A land modernization law facing the Laos National Assembly could be used to take away land from indigenous people who only hold customary ownership.

The Laos government argues that the land reform bill is necessary to bring greater transparency to land management and to modernize land records in the Southeast Asian nation.

The bill’s primary goal, according to the draft itself, is the “proper use of land for better livelihoods, and improved socio-economic development… without negative effects on the environment and society”.

The move comes as Laos is seeing rapid development spurred on by foreign investments looking to gain access to the country’s untapped resources.

With that outside investment, the Laos infrastructure is also rapidly developing and infringing into untitled lands held by citizens who have customary rights but no formal documentation to prove their ownership.

According to leading Thailand land lawyers, the same rapid expansion of infrastructure and development occurred in the past two decades in Thailand, leading to whole swaths of indigenous-owned land being seized by the government, which in turn caused a government and indigenous clashes over land rights that still rage on to this day.

This has prompted the Laotian government to draft legislation that would title all of the country’s land by 2025.

But this push could very well result in the taking of land from indigenous communities as more and more companies are lobbying the Laos government to make concessions for more industrial and agricultural development.

“If customary land tenure rights are not recognized, people risk losing their land or not receiving fair compensation in case of acquisition, leading to poverty and food insecurity,” according to the Land Information Working Group (LIWG), a Laos non-profit.

Read the full story here.

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