SINGAPORE (AFP) –
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Apr 25 2012
Communist Laos will pass a sporting milestone next week when it hosts its first professional golf event, the $80,000 Luang Prabang Laos Open.
The small, poverty-stricken southeast Asian state will hold the ASEAN PGA Tour event in the world heritage city of Luang Prabang, known for its idyllic temples.
Centre-stage for the hosts will be the multi-talented Daliya Saidara, 22, Laos’s first professional golfer who has also represented his country in tennis and archery.
“I will feel more nervous than in a normal competition because all eyes will be on me,” Daliya said in comments released by organisers on Wednesday. “I have been practicing five days a week.
“I am excited and proud. I am hoping there will be more tour events in Laos.”
Thailand’s Thaworn Wiratchant, a three-time Asian order of merit winner, will headline the Laos Open.
The May 3-6 tournament also kicks off this year’s ASEAN PGA Tour featuring eight events around southeast Asia.
VIENTIANE – It is easy to be seduced by the peaceful rural scenes, punctuated by rice fields, vegetable patches and reed-filled wetlands. But behind the natural tapestry, tension and anger are brimming over in the local communities near the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge outside of the Lao capital.
The communal complaint: their long self-sustaining community will on government orders soon be converted into an 18-hole golf course, luxury hotel and top-end residential developments, and the compensation on offer to relocate is well below going market land prices.
As in many traditional societies, land in Laos is often held by tacit agreement rather than legal deeds. In some cases land was given by the state to those deemed worthy, like soldiers. Now that land is becoming a highly prized commodity, traditional land rights are being overturned by state power.
The people living on the 557 hectare proposed site are poor and live off the land. Some are retired soldiers, who like Khampheng have lived here since hostilities ended in the 1970s. A few are civil servants. “I can’t live on my government salary,” one said in passable English. “I have to grow food; my wife sells any surplus. The money they’re offering is not enough to buy land like this and there is none nearby that we can afford.”