Lao National Assembly defers approval of amended Land Law

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - The National Assembly (NA) has yet to approve a draft amendment to the Land Law, pointing out the need for further refinement to address all its deficiencies.

Assembly Vice President Mr Somphanh Phengkhammy, who presided over yesterday’s debate on the amendment, reminded those present about the objectives of the NA Standing Committee.

He noted the important guidelines stressed in the Party Central Committee resolution No. 26 on how to regulate the use of land to maximise the benefits to the country and people.

“If we continue to do what we have done in the past we will not achieve the land management targets,” Mr Somphanh said.

He reminded those taking part in the debate about the stipulation in the constitution, which states that Lao land is owned by the national community with the State charged with its centralised and uniform management.

Despite that, he said, unregulated land reservation and transfer by individuals and private companies along provincial and national roads has been common practice.

“These individuals and companies did not use the land but just reserved parcels of it and then announced they would sell it,” Mr Somphanh said.

“We have to look at whether the draft amendment complies with the Party Central Committee’s resolution no. 26 before approving it,” he added.

The Land Law was first promulgated in 2003. The government has attempted to amend it but has not succeeded because the issues involved are complex.

Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Mr Bounmy Phoutthavong, on behalf of the drafting subcommittee, explained the draft amendment to Assembly members. The stipulation on land ownership has remained the same since 2003.  Regarding land encroachment, the draft amendment states that all structures and business properties will be dismantled without any compensation being given.

Concerning land used for agriculture, the drafting subcommittee pointed out the loopholes in the 2003 law. Agricultural land could not be divided up equally for every farmer throughout the country because land plots in mountainous areas are smaller than in lowland areas. The law gives the right to provincial administrations to determine a citizen’s right to agricultural land in each locality, but this decision should comply with the national land master plan.

The draft amendment permits the upfront sale of land in the belief that doing so will generate more income for the state than is earned from land concessions.

This type of sale means individuals or companies can buy land (the right to land) but their ownership will expire after a certain length of time as spelled out in the purchase agreement.

“Doing this complies with the guidelines of the Party Central Committee’s resolution no. 26, while also facilitating investment, where the government will receive a lump sum and not lose the land,” Mr Bounmy said.

The National Assembly on Monday approved the newly drafted Law on Railways as a reference for the management of rail transport in anticipation of the completion of the Laos-China railway in 2021.



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