Laos Breaks Ground On Railway Project Linking Thailand to Vietnam

2014-01-03
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lao-railway-groundbreaking-dec-2013.jpg
Giant holds a groundbreaking ceremony for the Savannakhet-Lao Bao railway project in Savannakhet, Dec. 18, 2013.
Photo courtesy of a source in Savannakhet

Laos has broken ground on an ambitious high-speed railway project linking the country’s western border with Thailand to Vietnam and is likely to begin full construction this month, according to sources.

Giant Consolidated, a Malaysian company that will construct and operate the 220-kilometer (140-mile) railway, held a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the laying of the “foundation” for the project last month in Savannakhet, multiple sources in the province confirmed to RFA’s Lao Service.

The Dec. 18 event was held in Outhumphone district’s Ban Naxai, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

An official from the Lao Ministry of Planning and Investment, citing sources at Giant, told RFA that full construction on the railway was likely to begin this month.

“According to Giant Consolidated, work is expected to begin in January,” said the official, who also asked not to reveal his name.

The official did not provide further details on construction plans for the project.

Malaysia’s Giant was in November 2012 awarded a contract to construct and operate the railway from Savannakhet, on Laos’s southwestern border with Thailand, to the Lao Bao border gate with Vietnam in the east.

RFA was unable to contact the company to confirm that it plans to proceed with construction in January, or whether it had obtained a loan it had sought in connection with the project.

lao-railway-groundbreaking-ii-dec-2013-400.jpg
Officials use shovels to ceremoniously break ground on the Savannakhet-Lao Bao railway project, Dec. 18, 2013. Credit: Source in Savannakhet
Moving forward

Giant appears to be steaming ahead with the project after what may have been a minor derailment last year.

In June, an official from the Lao Ministry of Public Works and Transportation in Vientiane told RFA that a groundbreaking ceremony for the railway was originally scheduled for “sometime in August” following Giant’s completion of a mandatory environmental impact assessment needed for construction to begin.

It is unclear whether the study has since been submitted to authorities, or whether Giant has delivered findings to provincial officials from a survey of the construction site it conducted early last year.

In April, a Lao railways official told RFA that before launching construction, Giant also needed to carry out a project design study, which it expected to complete by August.

Construction of the railway, which also links Savannakhet city to Vietnam’s Danang port city, is expected to take four years.

A financial institution reportedly had agreed in April last year to provide a U.S. $5 billion loan to Giant to fund the construction, but it is unclear whether the arrangement was confirmed.

lao-rail-map-400.jpgSecond rail line

Laos was also in negotiations to borrow U.S. $7.2 billion from China to fund a second planned rail line—a 420-kilometer (260-mile) project linking the capital Vientiane to southwestern China.

In July, a senior official at the Chinese Embassy in Bangkok told RFA that Beijing was waiting for Thailand to confirm that it will proceed with the project before finalizing the loan.

Laos assumed sole ownership of the project after a Chinese construction company pulled out of a joint partnership because it decided the project would not be profitable enough.

Legislators and the Asian Development Bank have cautioned that the project is “unaffordable” and could sink the country into debt.

Laos has no coastline or seaports, and the rail links are expected to lower the cost of exports and consumer goods and help drive the impoverished country’s socioeconomic development.

The country’s current rail system consists of a 3.5-kilometer (2-mile) link over the Mekong River between Vientiane and Thailand’s Nongkhai.

Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Comments (9)
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Spiderman

from from New York

Soon enough i will be in The Avengers......Soon enough...

Mar 24, 2014 04:17 AM

Batman

from Gotham City

Soon enough, the Laos from overseas will not have a motherland to go back to. The Vietnamese will completely own every square inch of the former country Laos. However, it's not all too late to salvage what the Laotian have left. That starts by getting rid of corrupted government officials. They are the ones that are selling and giving the country away. But, if the Lao people remain naïve and blind, they are destined to become slaves.

Jan 08, 2014 11:55 PM

huk Lao

from Sky over Laos

You're absolutely correct. Very soon Laotians from all over, outside, inside or whatever they want to call themselves will no longer have motherland left and there will be the 2nd Vietnam in Laos without any doubt. The Issara government they don't care of Lao people but themselves and their party, especially their dog-eaten boss Vietcong. Just think about it, how many electric power dams had already built in Laos? Where are $$$$ go from selling those electricity to the neighbors country? Simple...PM Thongsing Thammavong or Choummary Sayasone and all of their [...] kissers get richer. That's why they are being so broke and there are lots of Issara government workers didn't even get pay for nearly 4 months. Their national budget was screw up big time but they keep collecting tax from the poor Lao citizens instead. What a freaky stupid government systems. They need to reform to the new democracy and get rid of their Vietnam communist boss soon before slavery getting worse.


[This comment has been edited by RFA Editorial staff per our Terms of Use]

Jan 12, 2014 10:44 PM

Zuangavong

This rail link will only bring in more troubling Vietnamese into Laos and Thailand future social society and political agenda from Vietnam. Vietnam has already taken over Laos and the Lao people are already being displace by the vast Vietnamese nationalist into Laos. Those Laotian overseas that goes back to our motherland would be killed off by Vietnamese whom already establish themselves in Laos. It is now too late to save our people sadly.

Jan 07, 2014 07:18 PM

Superman

from Krypton

The only way Laos will have real freedom and democracy is to unite the people and a complete regime change. Otherwise, only the corrupt officials will benefit at the cost of poor civilians. As for those dog-eating Vietcongs, there are too many of those in Laos. We need to deport them fast.

Jan 06, 2014 10:09 PM

Buk hum yai

from Sky over Laos

That's true the "unification" is what Lao people need to get rid of those Vietcong [....] and the old [...] ideologists.


[This comment has been edited by RFA Editorial staff per our Terms of Use]

Jan 07, 2014 12:47 PM

Buk hum yai

from Sky over Laos

Laos is very poor and underdevelopment country on earth in many aspects. No need hi-speed train,luxurious resorts or casinos for Lao people. They do need freedom of speech and press, schools and hospitals and most importantly the new democracy. They do not need a bunch corruption and oppression from the foreigners like dog eaten Vietcongs or red Lao communist party. Laos is at tipping point of losing the country and extinction of Lao people forever. We all need to wake up sooner is better or we will disappear for good.

Jan 06, 2014 11:07 AM

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