Laotian farmers defy police and Chinese companies in defense of disputed land
Vientiane ( AsiaNews / Agencies) - In one of the rare episodes of civil resistance, a dozen rice farmers from northern Laos have challenged the police ordered them to leave the crops. The area has long been at the center of a dispute between farmers and local authorities, after a Chinese company forcibly expropriated the land - with the consent of Vientiane - to build an airport. The project is part of a wider development plan to create a "special economic zone" devoted to casino gambling, which is expected to attract a crowd of visitors across the border.
Days ago fifty farmers from the district of Tonpheung , the northern province of Bokeo, challenged police armed with AK -47 assault rifles , called to enforce the expropriation order on behalf of the group Dok Kham Ngiew. The farmers, who have worked the land for generations formed a human chain in front of the bulldozers brought to raze the fields, forcing the company to seek the intervention of the police .
Upon arrival, the police ordered the crowd to disperse, but the farmers would not budge. "Why - they shouted - are the police and military, instead of helping the people, helping the traitors who are selling the nation's land away". "Once they take the rice paddies from us - said a farmer - there will be nothing left". In front of the net rejection by farmers, the police retreated avoiding open confrontation.
For days, the farmers have been keeping watch over the land round the clock, to prevent police from implementing the expropriation at night. "We will continue to keep up the surveillance on our land ," said a resident of one of the six villages Tonpheung , involved in the project of expropriation of land of one thousand acres , and which in 2012 finished had already been earmarked by construction companies . The local authorities are attempting to mediate by offering sums of money by way of compensation , an offer rejected by the farmers as insufficient.