Archive for ‘Lao PDR’

September 11, 2014

Cambodians oppose Lao dam

Cambodians oppose Lao dam

  • Published: 11 Sep 2014 at 20.03
  • Writer: Kyodo News Service

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.bangkokpost.com/most-recent/431752/cambodians-oppose-don-sahong-dam-in-laos

PHNOM PENH – Cambodians staged a protest Thursday to share the concerns of more than a quarter of a million people who are calling on Laos to suspend construction of the Don Sahong hydropower project on the Mekong River.

Cambodian activists hold placards and banners on a boat during the handover of petition signatures against the Don Sahong dam, in Phnom Penh on Thursday. (AFP photo)

At the protest Chhith Sam Ath, country director of the World Wide Fund for Nature, said Don Sahong Dam, a 260-megawatt hydropower project, could bring about the demise of important fisheries and critically endangered Mekong dolphins.

Chhith Sam Ath said around 85 dolphins are now restricted to a 190 kilometre stretch of the river between southern Laos and northeast Cambodia, with the dam project in southern Laos just 1 kilometre upstream of the dolphins’ core habitat.

In June, Laos announced its decision to have the Don Sahong project undergo a Mekong River Commission consultation process.

The process requires Laos to hold intergovernmental consultations before proceeding with the dam and conduct and share studies on the project’s environmental and social impact.

The process will take at least six months to complete.

The WWF said since May this year, 12,404 concerned Cambodians have added their names to a WWF public petition opposing the dam.

The local action, supported by members of the River Coalition in Cambodia under facilitation of the NGO Forum on Cambodia, was bolstered by a global online petition signed by 255,596 people representing more than 200 countries.

Chhith Sam Ath said, “more than a quarter of a million people around the world are sending a strong and clear message to Mega First. Stop Don Sahong Dam or risk the dubious ‘honor’ of precipitating the extinction of a species. Don Sahong Dam is a dangerous experiment and Mega First is gambling with the livelihoods of millions.”

Mega First is a Malaysian utility conglomerate.

The Stop Don Sahong event, organised by the WWF, included 25 community members from the Mekong and Tonle Sap, 50 youths from Phnom Penh, NGO representatives and Buddhist monks working on conservation awareness along the river.

As part of the event, boats travelled along the Mekong displaying banners calling on Mega First to respond to the huge public opposition to their project.

WWF said the dam builders intend to excavate millions of tonnes of rock using explosives, creating strong sound waves that could potentially kill dolphins who have highly sensitive hearing structures.

Increased boat traffic, changes in water quality and habitat degradation represent other risks.

It added that the dam will block the only channel available for dry-season fish migration, putting at risk the world’s most productive inland fisheries and the livelihoods of 60 million people living in the Lower Mekong Basin.

An Hou, chief of Community Fishery Network in the Sambor district of Kratie province in Cambodia, said, “Without fish and dolphins, our livelihoods will be destroyed.”

“We are helpless and we do not know what to do if the dam goes ahead. We ask Mega First’s executive chairman, Mr Goh (Nan Kioh), to stop the dam construction and rethink this project, and consider carefully the lives of millions of people who depend on the Mekong River,” he added.

The WWF called for an immediate halt to any further development of the Don Sahong project until the developers have addressed significant gaps identified in the project documents, such as the feasibility studies and the Environmental Impact Assessment.

Additionally, an independent and sound assessment of the Don Sahong project against more sustainable alternatives must be conducted.

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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 28, 2014

Bouncing down: The back roads of history (The Ho Chi Minh Trail)

Bouncing down: The back roads of history

Posted On Aug 25, 2014
Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://theadvisorcambodia.com/2014/08/bouncing-back-roads-history/

Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent rides the Ho Chi Minh Trail on a 1989 pink Honda cub

The Ho Chi Minh Trail, for those of you who’ve forgotten, was a transport network running from North Vietnam to South Vietnam, via Laos and Cambodia. Originally made up of primitive footpaths used for local trade, by the time of the Vietnam War the Trail was used to supply weapons, fuel and men in vast quantities to fight the Americans. According to the US government, the Trail was “one of the great achievements of military engineering of the 20th century”.

It also caused a great deal of trouble for both Laos and Cambodia: Laos was hit by an average of one B-52 bomb load every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, between 1964 and 1973. US fighters dropped more bombs on Laos than were dropped by all sides during the whole of the Second World War. And in Cambodia, American bombing provided a huge impetus for the rise of the Khmer Rouge.
The scale of the Trail was breathtaking. Covering more than 2,000 kilometres, from Sihanoukville in the south and Hanoi in the north, through thick jungle and over the 2,500-metre Truong Son mountain range in Laos, much of it was hidden from the bombers by tied-together tree canopies and trellises. The Americans used increasingly sophisticated weaponry to try to disrupt the Trail, including dousing it with Agent Orange, but all to no avail.

Agent Orange, a viciously unpleasant herbicide and defoliant, was used to strip the ground of plant cover, so the North Vietnamese would have nowhere to hide. According to the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 4.8 million people were exposed to the chemical, leaving 400,000 dead and 500,000 children born with birth defects. And reports suggest that at the end of the war, 80 million bombs had fallen on the three countries but not exploded, leaving an appalling and deadly legacy.

So, all in all, the Trail was a hugely important hinge for modern Southeast Asian history. It has been traversed before by modern travel writers, on foot and on motorbike: a guy called Chris Hunt rode the length of the Trail on a Russian-made Minsk 125cc in 1995. To top that, British-born Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent decided to make the journey on a bubblegum-pink 1989 Honda C-90 stepthru moped, because “doing it on a proper dirt bike seemed too easy”. She had to have the engine rebuilt four times during the trip, so she clearly found the difficulties she was looking for.

Pink vehicles seem to be something of a motif for Bolingbroke-Kent; previously she had driven a pink tuk tuk from Bangkok to Brighton. On the Trail, at a stately 20mph, she fords rivers, climbs mountains and braves the heat and dust and loneliness and potential tiger attacks, staying in grubby guesthouses, swatting insects and drinking warm Pepsi. If her writing is sometimes a little flat, her knowledge of the history of the Trail, as well as her views on unexploded ordnance and the effects now of the logging and deforestation along the way, are invaluable.
As economic progress turns the Ho Chi Minh Trail into well-paved routes for shipping wood abroad for garden furniture, the Trail itself is disappearing; this is a decent book on a fascinating subject.

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.

 

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