Daily Picture Show

Taking A Look At Laos

The existing rail track in Laos is an extension of the Thailand railway at the city of Nongkhai. This track crosses the Mekong River in Thailand and ends at the Laos border.

hide captionThe existing rail track in Laos is an extension of the Thailand railway at the city of Nongkhai. This track crosses the Mekong River in Thailand and ends at the Laos border.

Ore Huiying

A diminutive, landlocked, communist country, Laos has a deserved reputation for being a quiet country in a dynamic region. But the rapid modernization in Southeast Asia is beginning to touch Laos as well.

A Chinese-funded trans-Asian rail is set to run right through Laos, connecting China's southern Yunnan province to Bangkok, Thailand. But some analysts say this is more likely to serve the countries it is connecting — largely China — rather than Laos.

  • Kongthaly works at Thanaleng station, the first and only railway station in Laos. He received his training in Thailand, as the Laos station adopted its operating system from Thailand railway.
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    Kongthaly works at Thanaleng station, the first and only railway station in Laos. He received his training in Thailand, as the Laos station adopted its operating system from Thailand railway.
    Ore Huiying
  • The Nong Khai-Thanaleng train makes four trips daily between Laos and Thailand. Consisting of two coaches, the train usually carries a handful of tourists.
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    The Nong Khai-Thanaleng train makes four trips daily between Laos and Thailand. Consisting of two coaches, the train usually carries a handful of tourists.
    Ore Huiying
  • Somboun has been working at the Thanaleng station since its inauguration in 2009.
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    Somboun has been working at the Thanaleng station since its inauguration in 2009.
    Ore Huiying
  • At the Thanaleng station, a group of Australian tourists await the train to Nongkai, where they will catch the connecting train to Bangkok.
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    At the Thanaleng station, a group of Australian tourists await the train to Nongkai, where they will catch the connecting train to Bangkok.
    Ore Huiying
  • The impending extension of the existing rail track will alter the landscape of Dongphosy village.
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    The impending extension of the existing rail track will alter the landscape of Dongphosy village.
    Ore Huiying
  • Mank works in her farmland in Dongphosy village. When construction for the track begins, she and her family will be displaced.
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    Mank works in her farmland in Dongphosy village. When construction for the track begins, she and her family will be displaced.
    Ore Huiying
  • The Sihavong family has been farming for generations. They also face displacement as their farm lies on the site of a new railway station.
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    The Sihavong family has been farming for generations. They also face displacement as their farm lies on the site of a new railway station.
    Ore Huiying
  • 10-year-old Bounphang Sihavong helps out on the family farm.
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    10-year-old Bounphang Sihavong helps out on the family farm.
    Ore Huiying
  • Red concrete posts mark the route of the proposed track extension. Any land and buildings in their vicinity will be cleared.
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    Red concrete posts mark the route of the proposed track extension. Any land and buildings in their vicinity will be cleared.
    Ore Huiying
  • The Sihavong brothers and sisters will lose their farmland and houses that have been passed down for generations.
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    The Sihavong brothers and sisters will lose their farmland and houses that have been passed down for generations.
    Ore Huiying
  • The railway development in Laos is expected to create opportunities, but will also change traditional ways of life.
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    The railway development in Laos is expected to create opportunities, but will also change traditional ways of life.
    Ore Huiying
  • Development projects like the railway may pose challenges to ethnic tribes in Laos who depend on natural resources.
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    Development projects like the railway may pose challenges to ethnic tribes in Laos who depend on natural resources.
    Ore Huiying
  • The Vongvily family started a shop in their house in Dongphosy village.
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    The Vongvily family started a shop in their house in Dongphosy village.
    Ore Huiying
  • Baunum works in a small piggy bank factory in the village.
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    Baunum works in a small piggy bank factory in the village.
    Ore Huiying
  • Laos hopes that the railway project will attract foreign investments, such as this housing development by Chinese investors in downtown Vientiane, the capital.
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    Laos hopes that the railway project will attract foreign investments, such as this housing development by Chinese investors in downtown Vientiane, the capital.
    Ore Huiying
  • The Laos Country Club, the first golf club in Vientiane, was built by Korean investors.
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    The Laos Country Club, the first golf club in Vientiane, was built by Korean investors.
    Ore Huiying
  • The Sihavong family enjoys a rare weekend trip to a market in neighbouring Thailand.
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    The Sihavong family enjoys a rare weekend trip to a market in neighbouring Thailand.
    Ore Huiying
  • Katick Sihavong takes a break from her farming routine.
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    Katick Sihavong takes a break from her farming routine.
    Ore Huiying

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The New York Times has a lengthy article explaining what this means. (And a map that shows just how it will break down.)

"The price tag of the $7 billion, 260-mile rail project, which Laos will borrow from China, is nearly equal to the tiny $8 billion in annual economic activity in Laos, which lacks even a rudimentary railroad and whose rutted road system is largely a leftover from the French colonial era."

Singapore-based photographer Ore Huiying took an interest in Southeast Asia's rail network. That led her to Laos, where, she says there is just a little over two miles of rail track.

"The proposed high-speed train could potentially generate economic benefits and propel the country's development," she writes. "At the same time, it could cause groups of people to experience new poverty."

Her photos show that dichotomy of a culture on the brink of change.

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