Vientiane authorities have frozen land sales and transfers in Dongdok village and surrounding areas after the National University of Laos filed a claim stating that it had the legal right to own and regulate the area.
Director of the Vientiane Natural Resources and Environment Department, Mr Bountham Phouthanvongsa, said on Wednesday the department had signed an order to suspend land use rights transactions in the area, which also includes parts of Tadmixay, Nathom, Saphangmeuk and Nongviengkham villages.
Mr Bountham said the decision by the department was in line with the resolutions of the government and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, which provide legal back up for the National University of Laos to own 262 hectares of land in these five villages of Xaythany district.
Unfortunately, some parts of the university’s land are occupied by a large number of people. This was the main reason for authorities ordering people in these villages not to carry out any form of land transaction, he said.
“The message that I want to deliver to the people who occupy university land is that they must stay calm and continue to live as normal. What we want them to do is just stop the sale and transfer of land,” he added.
Mr Bountham said that at this stage it was unclear when the university wanted to use the occupied land and what kind of measures it would use to persuade people to return the land they have occupied.
An official in charge of the university’s property management said the university had the legal right to use and regulate 262 hectares of land in Dongdok village and surrounding areas. He also said the university had no exact timeframe for use of the land.
He explained that the government had approved a project to use the site to build the most modern education facility in Laos, adding that it would be impossible to carry out the project if those who were now living on the land did not hand it back to the university.
“We have to relocate people out of the area otherwise we won’t be able to move forward with the education facility development and expansion project, which the government has already approved,” said the university official, who asked not to be identified.
Officials said it was probable that the university and Vientiane authorities would form a committee to ascertain the actual area of the occupied land and the value of the property which had been built on it.
This information would give officials a clearer idea of how to tackle the issue, they said, adding that if the university insists on recovering the land it must provide the current inhabitants with fair compensation in line with the law and state policies.