Laos land grab clears way for EU summit villa resort
AT least 500 people have been uprooted from their homes to make way for villas where EU foreign ministers will stay during a summit in Laos on Monday.
The "Asia-Europe Meeting" will bring together representatives of 48 EU and Asian countries on Don Chan island in the centre of Laos's capital, Vientiane.
To allow the construction of 50 villas and two conference centres, the authorities moved 102 families who once lived on the island and worked its green paddy fields. The showcase facilities will be used for this and future summits.
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore will not be in attendance, but the Government will be represented by Galway East TD, Ciaran Cannon, the junior minister for skills and training.
The former inhabitants of Don Chan Island, who have been relocated 15 miles away, say their new homes lack enough fertile land to replace their old livelihoods.
The island's people did receive compensation, but the amounts paid differed from family to family.
The country's foreign ministry described the "Asia-Europe Meeting" as the "biggest event ever to be held in Laos".
But by staying in villas built on seized land, campaigners say that EU foreign ministers are complicit in a system that can impoverish ordinary people.
"EU leaders talk a lot about poverty reduction and human rights, yet they're staying in luxury villas built on a land grab," said Oliver Courtney, from the campaign group Global Witness. (© Daily Telegraph, London)