Protected Areas and the Integration Process of Mountainous Areas in Mainland Southeast Asia: The Case of Luang Nam Tha, Lao PDR

  • Steve DéryEmail author
  • Lucie Dubé
  • Bakham Chanthavong
Part of the Perspectives on Geographical Marginality book series (PGEO, volume 4)


This chapter is about protected areas in mainland Southeast Asia and how they contribute to transform the whole geography of people who live within them or in their vicinity. Ethnic minorities in mountainous areas are particularly vulnerable. Our hypothesis is that ethnic minorities in general are marginalized in this process of integration into national territorial projects and the world’s economic system. Though, marginality appears at various geographical levels, from internal local village systems to the larger national and international ones. To contribute to study this question, we will rely on the case of Luang Nam Tha province in Lao PDR. In this country, a large protected area system has been created since 1993, mostly with international funding and training. This chapter aims first to present some recent context of protected area development in mainland Southeast Asia, focusing on Laos: what is the geographical portrait and how it contributes to build national territorial projects. Secondly, mostly using the case of Luang Nam Tha province, we identify and analyze how protected areas contribute to transforming the socioeconomic geography of local people and how fast. Cash crops and ecotourism developments are part of this process, an ‘integration process’; and other state endeavours accompany these efforts and add up to this changing local geography. Thirdly, using information gathered in 13 villages in 2008, as well as from several visits since then, including in 2017, we aim to document the local impacts of this integration process. Our conclusion is that the speed of changes constitutes an important variable to measure whether local people are able to adapt during this integration process. The faster the process, the more people that are marginalized.


Protected areas Lao PDR National territorial strategy Integration Marginalisation 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyLaval UniversityQuébecCanada
  2. 2.Faculty of ForestryNational University of LaosVientianeLaos

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