Laos 'halts new investment, land concessions'

Laos will not allow any new investments in mining or grant further land concessions for rubber plantations until 2015 at the earliest due to concerns about land encroachment, state media said on Tuesday.

The government will examine existing investment policies and assess ongoing projects, the Vientiane Times said, adding that authorities would also review the environmental and social impact of major development projects.

"We approved large plots of land without looking into the details, like what land belonged to the state and which belonged to local people," the paper quoted Minister of Planning and Investment Somdy Duangdy as saying.

Inadequate land surveys ahead of major development projects have led to a rash of complaints over encroachment of villagers' land, and also created a range of environmental problems, he said.

"We will now inspect all approved investment projects," he said.

In future, "before approving any more projects, we will ensure that a thorough survey and allocation of land is undertaken", he said.

According to the Vientiane Times, since 1998 the government has approved nearly 25 billion dollars of investment -- mostly foreign and concentrated in the mining, hydropower and agricultural sectors.

The presence of foreign, particularly Chinese, investors in Laos, a landlocked communist country of about six million people, has raised increasing local concern despite bringing much needed foreign cash.

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