Villagers in Laos say a Chinese-owned banana plantation in has unfairly acquired the land of 46 families in the northern part of the country, many of whom were coerced by authorities into selling for a miniscule compensation package
The 46 families sold 60 hectares (148 acres) of their land in Houy Or Village, located in Bokeo province’s Meung district. They were offered what some say is a paltry 11 million kip ($1,200) per family.
When the plans for the banana plantation were revealed, several of the families refused to sell. They were taken to the local police station to be “reeducated,” according to one of the affected villagers.
“The district authorities summoned three people to the police station and held them for about a week until they gave up their land,” the villager told RFA’s Lao Service Wednesday.
The villager said that prior to the forced sale, the families lived on this land by growing rice and maize. After what the villager characterized as a “seizure,” the families have no farmland and are experiencing hardship.
A second villager complained that the newly landless have no way to support themselves, saying that the compensation they received is not enough to buy new land elsewhere, so the families are pleading with authorities for mercy and sympathy.
An official of Meung district told RFA Wednesday that there was very little the district could do.
“The villagers have already given up their land and accepted the money [in compensation]. [The Chinese company] has assessed and measured their portion of the land, so up until now we’ve not been able to act on behalf of [the villagers].”
Late last year, the same two villagers quoted in this report said that another investor, also Chinese, had made a request to authorities to provide him with a plot of land sized between 200 and 300 hectares (between 500 acres and a square mile) in the same village to plant rubber. Now they say authorities sold them out again are so Chinese can grow bananas there.
Much of Laos’s recent economic growth is generated through land concessions for natural resources, including timber, agricultural products, minerals, and energy, even though these come at a cost for those who lose their land and may not receive proper compensation.
Land grabs and the appropriation of public property to turn over to foreign and domestic companies are common in Laos, and villagers affected by them often refuse to speak out publicly because they fear retribution.
Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Max Avary. Written in English by Eugene Whong.