Laos: Villagers and farmers fear displacement due to influx of Chinese investments in economic zone

Author: Sidney Khotpanya & Eugene Whong, Radio Free Asia, Published on: 7 April 2019

"Chinese Investors Scrambling to Buy Into Laos' Boten SEZ Ahead of Railway", 3 April 2019

Laos' Boten Specific Economic Zone (SEZ) is enjoying strong interest from Chinese investors as the Lao-China railway nears completion, but local villagers are fearful of the rapid change. They say that the development will be good for the Chinese, but not for the Laotians who currently live there.

...The official said 10 big corporations and many more small and mid-sized development groups are seeking to build up the zone with shopping malls, hotels, banks and other financial services, storage for merchandise, restaurants, a tourist services center and other shops to cater to the expected tide of tourists.

...There is concern among local residents in Laos that all the Chinese investment in the area not only will fail to generate local jobs, but also will put them out of business.

...As those villagers cater more to the local community, it appears that they would have very little to gain by the buildup of the region, and are seen as a hindrance to development. Many have been resettled and given small compensation, but some refuse to move because they need land for farming.

...RFA sources report that the Chomphet SEZ in Luang Prabang province will use 4,500 hectares of land, but will also encroach on villagers. Meanwhile in the Vang Vieng tourist development zone, 22 villages were affected and 200 families in the Vientiane municipal economic zone near the rail station were displaced. These villagers rely on agriculture to make a living and the small compensation they are offered for their land makes many want to stay put....

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