The following is an excerpt from an article published in the Laotian newspaper Vientiane Times. 

The PM said he had once seen a photo of a coconut tree plantation in Borikhamxay, where investors had cut down large areas of natural forest.

Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh announced yesterday that his government would stop approving land concessions for investors on an indefinite basis, or until a more comprehensive strategy could be devised. Mr Bouasone explained at the national land meeting that the government would stop approving land concessions for both local and foreign investors involving land of 100 hectares or more for industrial tree plantations, perennial plants and mining. “We are calling a halt to these projects to improve our strategy and address the shortcomings of our previous strategy,” he said. The governor of Borikhamxay province, Mr Khampane Philavong, expressed concern that this measure would impact foreign investment in Lao PDR, but the Prime Minister urged those at the meeting to clarify the matter to potential investors so that they understood the objectives. Mr Bouasone said there had been many problems regarding land management recently, which was why the government was calling a halt to allow some time for better planning.

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He added that officials should carry out surveys of soil grade and topography to determine the most suitable areas for tree plantations and other crops, before investments could be approved, to avoid negative consequences. Previously, once an agreement was signed for industrial tree plantations, investors would start cutting down trees straight away, but this was something that had to change, Mr Bouasone said. Officials should first carry out proper surveys to determine how many hectares of the land were owned by locals, or lay in protected or watershed areas, and report the findings to the government for consideration. “These problems were caused by deficiencies in our strategy, and we will now review our regulations that are incompatible with the country's land laws,” he said.

For more information on the issue of land concessions in Lao PDR click here.