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Laos-China Railway, Lao PDR

As part of its Kunming-Singapore line, China is building a 410-kilometer railway line in Laos that will displace more than 4,400 families. Activists have raised concerns also regarding the debt burden and the lack of proper compensation.


Rail services are almost non-existent in Laos [1], a dormant small country in Southeast Asia that, compared to neighboring states, has attracted less interest from investors or the international community. However, Laos is strategically located in  Southeast Asia and it is the quickest gateway connecting China with the rest of the region, including key areas, such as the Malacca Straits.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Laos-China Railway, Lao PDR
Country:Lao PDR
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Specific commodities:Transportation services
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Area: 3,800 hectares of land have been reserved for the project. Railway length is expected to be 409 km [2]

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Level of Investment:5,800,000,000
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:4,411 families
Start of the conflict:01/12/2016
Company names or state enterprises:Laos China Railway Company from China - Developer
Relevant government actors:Lao Ministry of Public Works and Transport, Lao Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, Laos-China Railway Construction Project Management Committee,
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Open Development (
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLATENT (no visible organising at the moment)
Reaction stageLATENT (no visible resistance)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Forms of mobilization:Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation
Potential: Noise pollution, Other Environmental impacts
Other Environmental impactsLocals fear that rapid increase in tourism may damage environment
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Occupational disease and accidents
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Other socio-economic impacts
Other socio-economic impactsConcerns over the country's increasing debt burden
Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:There has been no response to local communities' concerns
Proposal and development of alternatives:Ejos are mainly asking the government to pay adequate compensation without delay
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:There has been no response to local communities' concerns
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

2004 Law on the Promotion of Foreign Investment
[click to view]

[11] Capital of Laos Seeks Stronger Ties to China, New York Times, September 25, 2018
[click to view]

[10] Chinese tourist ‘invasion’ feared as high-speed Laos-China Railway will boost visitor numbers dramatically, South China Morning Post, August 24, 2018
[click to view]

[1] Mapped: The world's largest rail networks, The Telegraph, April 5, 2016
[click to view]

[4] China-Laos railway project set to be complete by late 2021, People's Daily Online, November 15 2017
[click to view]

[2] China's fast track to influence: Building a railway in Laos, Radio Free Asia, 2018
[click to view]

[3] China train project runs roughshod over Laos, Asia Times, August 18, 2018
[click to view]

[5] China's Belt and Road rail project stirs discontent in Laos, Nikkei Asian Review, March 15, 2018
[click to view]

[6] Compensation Plans For Lao Rail Project Finalized, Under Review, Radio Free Asia, January 2, 2018
[click to view]

[7] Compensation payments for Laos-China railway slated for completion in 2019, Asia News Network, November 15 2018
[click to view]

[8] Open Development Laos, Infrastructure, July 3, 2018
[click to view]

[9] Lao People’s Democratic Republic : 2017 Article IV Consultation-Press Release; Staff Report; and Statement by the Executive Director for Lao People’s Democratic Republic, International Monetary Fund. Asia and Pacific Dept, March 23, 2018
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Laura Villadiego, Carro de Combate, [email protected]
Last update18/08/2019
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