Lao Villager Released After Accepting ‘Compensation’ for Seized Land

A Lao woman held since March for protesting the government seizure of village land for a medical college and hospital was released after her family accepted compensation for their property loss, RFA has learned.

Keo, a resident of Xiengda village in the Saysettha district of the Lao capital Vientiane, was detained on March 16 after arguing with police in a dispute that was later shown in a video published on Facebook, local sources told RFA in an earlier report.

She has now been freed from detention, a family member told RFA’s Lao Service on June 8.

“Keo was released more than a month ago after her family released their land to the authorities, who gave them back a 500-square-meter plot and 73 million kip [U.S. $8,100] in compensation,” the relative said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Keo was “reeducated” by police and told not to resume her protest before being freed, and no money was paid to secure her release, RFA’s source said.

A young villager named Poy , who was also seen arguing with police in the video released on Facebook, was detained at about the same time as Keo and is still being held at the Saysettha district police station but has not been formally charged, a relative of the young man said.

“The authorities haven’t told us anything about him yet. Our family members sometimes go to visit him at the Crime Division,” the relative said, also speaking on condition he not be named.

Reached for comment, the Saysettha police station offered no explanation for why Poy has not yet been released.

Laos often comes under criticism for land grabs in which authorities seize land from people for development projects without paying them fair compensation for lost crops, property, and livelihoods.

Rights groups say the illegal appropriations violate basic human rights and that such land grabs are a major cause of social tensions in Laos and in neighboring countries in Southeast Asia.

Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Max Avary. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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