Lao National Assembly voices concerns over loss of state lands
VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - National Assembly members supported the amendment of the land law but expressed concerns about the continuing loss of state lands and conversion of agricultural land into other classifications.
During the debate at the ongoing session, members learned about many state lands under government sector management having been transferred into individual ownership. This could affect long-term national development when the government needs land for the expansion of infrastructure and public space.
If individuals and entrepreneurs acquire too much land, the government will need to spend more on future compensation to free up land for development projects in populated areas.
NA member for Xieng Khuang province, Mr Vilaysouk Phimmasone said “Some people have a lot of land while the poor do not have enough for productive farming.”
“Our state lands have been illegally encroached upon or given to individual owners, but how can we take it back,” he asked?
Many members noted that some officials had abused their power of authority to take over state lands, saying that the amendment of the law needed to address this issue.
NA Member for Vientiane, Ms Buakham Thipphavong called for relevant authorities to re-inspect state land across the country with those seizing it without the approval of the central government forced to return the property to state ownership.
Members are also concerned about national food security with many areas of agricultural land repurposed for commercial and residential use without approval from authorities.
NA member for Khammuan province Mr Thipphachan Phoxay said the government needed to make it clear in its allocation as to which land should be conserved for agriculture not allow anyone to convert it into other classifications.
Provincial authorities need to play an active role in determining agricultural lands for commercial production.
While presenting the draft amended law for NA debate on Friday, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Mr Sommad Pholsena highlighted the need to amend the land law which has applied since 2003.
The amended law comprises 15 parts and 190 articles. Of the total, 36 articles are new, and 47 articles are revised.
Land disputes have been one of the top public issues for many years with hundreds of people submitting their concerns through the NA hotline every session.
Land issues also related to unfair land compensation, overdue issuance of land titles and intrusion of forestry lands.
Under the law, individuals are allowed to have not more than 800 square metres of residential land each. Those who don’t pay taxes for three consecutive years or don’t develop their land plots for three years will have to pay the tax five times more than their current fee rate.