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Library Land Concessions, Land Tenure, and Livelihood Change

Land Concessions, Land Tenure, and Livelihood Change

Land Concessions, Land Tenure, and Livelihood Change
Plantation Development in Attapeu Province, Southern Laos

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Date of publication
December 2009
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This paper seeks to add to the growing literature on land concessions by examining a recent, high-level concession as a means of understanding three aspects related to concessionary investments: (1) the process by which concessions are awarded and implemented; (2) the intricate relationship between land use, land tenure, and land ownership in the face of concessions; and (3) the way in which village and household livelihoods are impacted due to such massive land use and ownership changes.

The case study at hand is the concession of land use rights to log timber and grow rubber on a 10,000 hectare (ha) plot of land for 35 years in Attapeu province, southern Laos. These rights were awarded to the Hoàng Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) Joint Stock Company, a multinational Vietnamese corporation with diversified business activities including rubber growth and processing, mining, hydropower, real estate, and sports franchises. HAGL was able to acquire such a large tract of land in part because of aid they provided to the Lao government to construct the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games athletes’ village. The connection between the athletes’ village and the concession is little known and thus the report aims to highlight the way in which the SEA Games, in addition to being a sporting event, is also a project of national development with political, economic, and social implications.

Due to the high-level and high-priority nature of the investment, the Attapeu provincial government was influenced by the central government to facilitate the implementation of the project rapidly. When negotiating the concession at the village and household levels, a number of coercive strategies were used to ensure the concession of land by the heads of villages and households. In many cases, the company began to clear village and household land without any warning beforehand. The loss and compensation of different land types with varying degrees of legal tenure can provide insight into the de facto system of land tenure, land use, and land ownership in Laos. Both communally used forest land and individually tenured agricultural land were conceded to the plantation. However, communal lands that were previously allocated to the village for use were not compensated because the village did not have legal tenure over such lands.

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