Archive for ‘Lao Government Communist’

August 31, 2014

Lao Activist Defies Authorities And Builds Home on Disputed Land

Lao Activist Defies Authorities And Builds Home on Disputed Land

2014-8-24

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.rfa.org/english/news/laos/activist-08252014183142.html

Undeterred by a three-month detention and defying warnings from the authorities, a Lao activist is refusing to vacate land she had occupied for years and which has been identified for a government road expansion project.

Ms. Sivanxay Phommarath

Sivanxay Phommarath said she has begun construction of her house on the contentious plot of land in Khammouane province’s Nhommalath district despite being notified by the government that the area would have to be vacated for expansion of a road near the Nam Theun 2—the country’s largest hydroelectric dam.

Sivanxay, who was detained in 2012 after leading efforts to discuss adequate compensation for villagers affected by the road project, said she will not vacate her land unless the government gives her a comparable plot on which to build a home or a shop to support her family.

Most of her neighbors who have “good connections” with the authorities have left the area after receiving alternative plots of land and financial compensation, she said.

Sivanxay told RFA’s Lao Service that since her release from detention in February last year, the government has yet to respond to her demand, so she decided to build a new home in defiance of an official announcement that the adjacent road would be expanded by 25 meters (80 feet).

“I am building a new house on the lot because the hut I currently live in [often becomes] flooded,” she said, adding that she decided to build close to the road so that she can also run a small shop, despite the fact that the structure lies within the zone earmarked in 2012 for the road project.

“I am still confident that this land is mine because I pay property taxes every year. If I am asked to leave again, I will do so as long as I am compensated according to my previous demand.”

All of the area’s other residents have accepted compensation offers from the government and either moved or say they are ready to do so when the project begins, according to local officials.

It is unclear when the project will break ground, and it may have been stalled due to budget problems, residents say.

Sivanxay said she is confident the authorities are aware that she is building her new home within the project zone “because they drive to work past my house every day.”

She said no one from the local government has spoken to her about taking down the structure, other than to warn her that it is being built too close to the road and needs to be situated more than 25 meters away.

A Nhommalath official told RFA recently that the majority of villagers in the area had already moved and that those who hadn’t were “prepared to move as soon as authorities ask,” except for Sivanxay.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said that if Sivanxay refuses to vacate she will lose 25 meters of her land to the road project, and that the remaining plot would provide her, her husband, and their two-year-old child with little room to live.

But Sivanxay said she will hold out because she has not been promised anything better as part of a relocation package.

“Yes, many villagers have moved because they have good connections with the authorities, so they have received good compensation and land,” she said.

“But me? I don’t have a good relationship with the officials, so I won’t get anything as good.”

Seeking compensation

Authorities released Phommarath from detention after she paid a 700,000 kip (U.S. $88) fine and promised that she and her husband Soukphaouane Phommarath would refrain from taking part in any “unlawful” actions.

Sivanxay was detained in October 2012 after she led more than 20 people from Nhommalath district to meet with an unknown person in Savannakhet province the group believed would help them get better compensation for land being taken over by the road expansion.

After finding no one at the planned meeting spot—on a bridge over the Mekong River on the Thai-Lao border—the villagers returned home to Nhommalath but were taken into custody for questioning from authorities on the reason for their trip.

When Sivanxay refused to divulge information about the person she was supposed to meet, she was charged with inciting social disorder and taken to the Khammouane provincial prison on Nov. 19, 2012.

Authorities gave no explanation for her sudden release after being held incommunicado.

She said at the time that the conditions set by the authorities for her release stipulated that she and her husband “will not make any propaganda, incite groups of people to carry out unlawful acts in any way, will be good citizens socially and will not break any Lao laws.”

Since all land in Laos is owned by the state, residents can be forced off their land with little or no compensation as they are pushed out to make room for development projects.

Lawmakers have expressed concern that inadequate land surveys ahead of major development projects have led to a rash of complaints over encroachment on villagers’ land and created a range of environmental problems, according to the state-owned Vientiane Times newspaper.

Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Max Avary. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

August 15, 2014

VN, Laos armies plan co-operation

 

VN, Laos armies plan co-operation

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/government/109593/vn–laos-armies-plan-co-operation.html

Laos, army

Senior Lieutenant General Ngo Xuan Lich, head of the General Department of Politics under the Viet Nam People’s Army, held talks with Acting Director of the Lao People’s Army’s General Department of Politics Major General Vilay Lakhamphong in the central city of Da Nang yesterday.

He said that the two sides should work closely together to defeat any hostile schemes that aimed to undermine the friendship and solidarity between Viet Nam and Laos.

Lich also expressed hope that the Lao side would create favourable conditions for Viet Nam to search for and repatriate remains of Vietnamese volunteer soldiers who fell in Laos during wartime.

For his part, Vilay Lakhamphong expressed delight at the effective and comprehensive co-operation between the two sides, especially in Party and political work.

Vietnam offers assistance to Laos AIPA hosting

Vietnam is ready to share its experience in organising the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) to help Laos host the upcoming meeting successfully.

Vice Chairman of the National Assembly Committee for External Relations Nguyen Manh Tien made the commitment at a working session with a Lao National Assembly delegation in Vientiane on August 12.

Tien shared Vietnam’s experience in defining the theme of the meeting, proposing issues to be debated, and perfecting legislation to support the ASEAN Community in its formation process and governments in realising signed agreements.

Vice Chairman of the Laos National Assembly Saysomphon Phomvihan appreciated Vietnam’s valuable experience which he said will help Lao make AIPA 35 in September a great success.

The same day, the Laos National Assembly Chairwoman Pany Zathotou received the Vietnamese delegation.

VOV/VNA

August 11, 2014

Laos Freezes Salary Increase For Civil Servants

Laos Freezes Salary Increase For Civil Servants

2014-08-08

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.rfa.org/english/news/laos/salary-08082014185143.html

laos-congress-march-2006.jpg

Delegates listen to speeches during the the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party’s national congress in Vientiane, in a file photo.  AFP

The cash-strapped government in Laos has imposed a freeze on salary increases for civil servants during the new fiscal year beginning October, reports say, as the country reels from shrinking revenues.

Some government workers said their morale has been dampened by the state media’s announcement of the freeze on July 31.

A government decree had assured the more than 150,000 civil servants of salary increases for three consecutive years beginning from the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

The salary increase could not go ahead due to current “budget tensions,” the Vientiane Times reported.

The government has to exercise cautious spending and cut unnecessary expenditure, it said.

Senior Ministry of Finance official Bounzoum Sisavath confirmed the freeze in the report, which came following the approval by the National Assembly, the country’s parliament, of a trimmed down budget for the next fiscal year.

Civil servants received a salary increase and a monthly living allowance of 760,000 kip (U.S. $94) in 2012-2013.

The monthly allowance, which is much larger than the salary increase, was suspended this fiscal year.

Loss of incentive

One state employee who works closely with employees in the provinces said the salary freeze especially dampens the motivation of workers serving in remote areas.

The employees are already facing various constraints in the rural areas and had been expecting the salary increase as an incentive, he said.

“They feel very discouraged,” he said. “Some do not want to work and want to come back or be transferred out.”

“They say working in remote areas is already a sacrifice. When the government  suspends the salary increase, the only incentive is gone.”

Laos, which has more than six million people, currently has approximately 156,000 civil servants.

The Lao government’s financial difficulties were a key focus in the recent National Assembly session.

Lack of transparency

According to an official report, in the first half of the current fiscal year, the government collected just over 9.221 trillion kip (U.S. $1.1 billion), or 36.5 percent of the annual plan, the Vientiane Times reported.

According to Minister of Finance Lien Thikeo, budgetary woes stemmed largely from lack of transparency by finance officials, who help companies avoid their tax obligations, the report said.

Under questioning at the National Assembly, he described how some finance officials would help to manipulate the books of companies to show low or no profits, enabling them to evade taxes.

Poor revenue collection is due to lack of strong enforcement mechanisms to ensure businesses and enterprises pay taxes.

Lien Thikeo believes that updating revenue collection with modern technology can help minimize the problem of tax fraud.

The ministry has begun a pilot program to use electronic systems, such as smart cards, at border checkpoints in Vientiane, as well as the provinces of Luang Namtha, Champassak and Bokeo, according to the Times.

Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Somnet Inthapannha. Written in English by Di Hoa Le.

 

August 1, 2014

Laos struggles to lower maternal mortality

Laos struggles to lower maternal mortality

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.cmaj.ca/site/earlyreleases/30july14_Laos_struggles_to_lower_materna_mortality.xhtml

Steve Finch, Vientiane, Laos. July 30, 2014
Laos struggles to lower maternal mortality
The number midwives and skilled birth attendants in Laos is expected to nearly double, to 1500, by 2015, owing to training support from the UN Population Fund.

When 32-year-old Bouavanh Songmala was growing up in a remote village in Laos, death during child birth was all too common. UN agencies estimated there were 1215 such deaths per 100 000 live births in 1990. At the time, Laos had few midwives; none had been trained between 1987 and 2010, mainly due to lack of funds.

Bouavanh recently qualified as a male midwife in this southeast Asian nation, joining the ranks of 800 midwives and skilled birth attendants. Despite this improvement, more than half of women still lack supervised births. And Laos’ maternal mortality rate remains among the worst outside of Africa. UN agencies and the Ministry of Health estimate there are still between 220 and 370 deaths per 100 000 live births. Laos lags behind other southeast Asian countries, such as Vietnam, which has a maternal mortality rate of 49 deaths per 100 000 births. Canada’s rate is 11 per 100 000.

Undeniably, Laos has made progress. WHO said in May that Laos was one of 11 countries that has achieved a 75% reduction in maternal mortality since 2000. However, there is great uncertainty as to accuracy of statistics, because birth and death registers are not kept, and, according to a May 2014 article in The Lancet, determining what constitutes a maternal death is not straightforward.

Laos is aiming to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5:  a 5.5% annual rate of reduction in maternal deaths and a three-quarters drop on 1990 levels. But UN agencies say Laos’ target of 260 deaths per 100 000 live births by 2015 is “unlikely,” a conclusion shared by a study published  in December.

Part of the reason for this pessimism is unreliable numbers and a myriad factors affecting progress. The increase in midwives and skilled birth attendants has certainly helped; skilled attendants are now present at 41.5% of births and more than half of pregnant Laotian women receive skilled antenatal care at least once, says the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), which is helping to train these workers. It expects the number of personnel to nearly double, to 1500, next year. Continued investment and support for midwives will be crucial in helping Laos escape decades of high maternal death rates, says Siriphone Sally Sakulku, UNFPA’s reproductive health program coordinator in the Laos capital of Vientiane. “Laos needs midwives more than ever.”

Birth spacing and improved socioeconomics also seem to play a role in improved maternal mortality. Fertility has fallen from six to three births per woman since 1990, however health workers in the capital of Vientiane say access to contraception hasn’t improved substantially.

UN agencies suggest Laos’ economic growth rate of around 8% in recent years — among the highest in the world — and attendant rising incomes have also helped to reduce maternal deaths.

On the other hand, only 3.7% of deliveries are by Cesarean section and abortion remains illegal.

In addition, accessing people in remote areas is hugely problematic, particularly during the monsoon when roads are frequently washed out.

Australia’s Burnet Institute, which works in eastern Laos, says medical facilities are lacking and medical professionals often refuse to work in remote areas. Christi Lane-Barlow, Burnet’s country representative, says “The level of disparity in terms of what people can access is really, really severe.”

DOI:10.1503/cmaj.109-4833

 

July 30, 2014

Chinese gold miner flees Laos

Chinese gold miner flees Laos

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/world/423046/chinese-gold-miner-flees-laos

VIENTIANE —A Chinese firm suspected of illegally mining gold along the Mekong River in Laos has fled the country, state media reported Tuesday.

The unnamed company had permission to extract sand and gravel but was instead mining gold in Bokeo province in northern Laos, the Minister of Energy and Mines Soulivong Daravong told a press conference Friday, according to the Vientiane Times.

The authorities were alerted to the company’s activities by a member of the public who called a hotline concerned at the environmental effects of chemicals used to extract the gold.

The company threatened to detain villagers who approached the area where the mining was taking place, the caller reportedly said. The call prompted the provincial Public Works and Transport Department to order the firm to stop its illegal work.

“After learning about this (the warning), the firm feared that the government would fine them so they escaped back to their country (China),” the minister said.

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