Villagers Protest in Xieng Khouang Over Alleged Land Grab

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Villagers of Xang village, Khoun district, Xieng Khouang Province, launched a protest against an alleged land grab by Phengxay Sole Ltd. Company (“the company”) on 22 January.

The 30 minute long video shows spokespeople for the village, including the Village Chief, advocating against the issuing of the land rights certificate to the company.

The Backstory 

The company had a legal 10-year LAK 20 million (approximately USD 2000 in 2008) concession on the land starting in 2008. The video explains that the company invested to build infrastructure in the village and provided jobs to the village during the 10-year concession period.

After the end of the 10-year concession period, the company then had another concession for another 5-year period, costing LAK 20 more million (approximately USD 2000 in 2008), lasting up until 2023. In August of 2023, the concession period had ended. During that period, the company had attempted to register the land as their own, and get a legal land certificate. This was prohibited by the village authorities.

On 7 December 2023, the company then went to the village authorities with the claim that they had legal ownership of the land. Forcing the villagers and the authorities to protest against the company’s process to legally make the land theirs.

The Protest

“First of all, I would like to apologize to the Lao government, but the reason we are gathered today is because we feel like the land concession to the company is unjust,” said the village chief.

The village chief also stated that the land that the company allegedly concessioned includes a 7.8 hectare section that used to be a landing strip during the Vietnam War. As such, the land is classified as a “Cultural Land.” 

According to the 2019 Lao President’s Decree on the Promulgation of the Amended Land Law, Individuals, legal entities, and organizations can use cultural land for conservation and tourism purposes, on the condition that the land use shall ensure that it does not cause adverse impacts on the land and shall comply with the relevant laws.

The village chief believes that the company will use the land otherwise, and as such, the land should belong to the village that preserves it instead.

“We have submitted two requests to the provincial government to permanently make this land ours, but our requests have been denied. We have run out of options and have succumbed to having to protest,” the village chief continued.

“From this day forward, we request that the land be formally given back to us,” the village chief said before ending his speech by chanting, “Get out!”