Assessing the poverty impact of internal resettlement programs on the ethnic minorities in Lao PDR
This research assesses how poverty-based resettlement programs make a contribution to poverty reduction and controlling migration of ethnic people in rural Laos. In 2009, the government of Laos launched new resettlement programs in six northern provinces. The programs aimed to improve the accessibility to land of people who were remaining poor in some rural areas. Primarily, poor people were required to resettle in a village where land could be available for them. I investigated two resettlement sites in Thathome district, Xiangkhoang province. I applied a qualitative approach to examine the poverty experiences of settlers. In particular, I focused on identifying the causes and impacts of poverty-based resettlement programs on ethnic migrants. Semi-structured interviews were used to gather responses from migrants, government officers and host villagers. Two focus group interviews were organized with migrant participants who came from different locations. The findings revealed that poverty-based resettlement programs did not directly address the core causes of poverty and migration of poor people in rural Laos. Conversely, the improper planning and implementation of programs were responsible for poverty that happened in the resettlement sites. The programs were carried out while the local government was hampered by insufficient funds. There was little support and assistance provided to settlers during the transitional periods. As a result, settlers faced worse hardship than they had in their original villages. Poverty-based resettlement programs instead of reducing poverty had created a situation whereby there was a greater potential for poor people to become trapped in continued poverty.