Land policy and land law


Land law has a long history in the Mekong Region, going back to the colonial era. In the post-socialist CLMV countries, there has been an acceleration and elaboration of land policy formulation and legislation around land, including laws on investment, natural resources, special economic zones and other related fields. International donors have been quite heavily involved in law drafting in some countries. Recent implementation of consultative processes around law formulation reflects the growing role of civil society organisations. Discussions around law reflect deeper tensions and debates around relationships between state and society in the countries in question.

Key reform issues:

  • Legal reform to give investor’s confidence
  • Providing a basis for secure individual ownership or use rights under titling arrangements
  • Legal recognition of customary and communal land
  • Consultative processes in law and policy formulation
  • Matching compensation policy and practice to market prices for land
  • Constitutional definitions of rights in land between "the people" as a collectivity, state, business entities and individuals

Current critique and debate:

Recent land and related legislation is criticised for being too heavily oriented to attracting foreign investment, providing certainty for investors at the expense of smallholder security. Some countries' recent land legislation has entrenched regressive policy, for example on definition of "wastelands". Donors are sometimes seen as being too much in the driving seat when it comes to legal drafting and managing consultation processes around land law and policy. The inclusiveness of consultation is open to question. There are continuing disparities and contradictions between rights given in law and enacted through policy, on the one hand, and customary rights and practices on the other.

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