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Document Type

Journal Article

Department/Unit

Department of Geography

Title

Coffee, mines and dams: Conflicts over land in the Bolaven Plateau, southern Lao PDR

Language

English

Abstract

During the last decades, neoliberal economic reforms aiming at facilitating trade and cross-boundary investment have encouraged transnational and national economic actors to search for 'empty' land to grow export crops, to mine, or to develop hydroelectric dams. Mainland Southeast Asia is one of the regions where such investment has been taking place as it contains resource-hungry countries (Thailand and in particular neighbouring China), and countries with 'empty' land and the willingness to use such land to foster economic growth (Laos, Cambodia and Burma). This beset the question as to what happens to the people who inhabit the land that is supposed to be 'empty', and the relationship between the different land uses that takes over that 'empty' land. This paper describes the land conflicts in one area in southern Laos, the Bolaven Plateau, where national and international capital backing large-scale coffee plantation, bauxite mining and dam construction is displacing smallholding coffee farmers - the 'traditional' land users - within a political environment of poorly enforced property rights and endemic corruption. We describe how the smallholding coffee farmers are relocated to make way for the new economic activities supported by considerable amounts of foreign capital, and how the land grabbing results in lower standards of living for the smallholding coffee farmers, with few benefits to the country as a whole. © 2013 The Authors. The Geographical Journal © 2013 Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers).

Keywords

Bolaven Plateau, Coffee farming, Hydroelectric dams, Land grabbing, Laos, Mining

Publication Date

2013

Source Publication Title

Geographical Journal

Volume

179

Issue

2

Start Page

150

End Page

164

Publisher

Wiley

ISSN (print)

00167398

ISSN (electronic)

14754959

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