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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        1 February 2011

Construction of high-speed Laos railway starts

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The Lao government wants to start construction work on a 481-kilometer, high-speed railway linking Laos to China and Thailand in April.

The National Consulting Group, tasked with conducting the impact assessment study on the US$7 billion dollar project, has been ordered to speed up its work to hasten construction, the Vientiane Times said.

''The government has urged us to speed up the social and environmental impact assessment as construction of the railway will begin in April,'' said Videth Visounnalath, a spokesman for the National Consulting Group.

The railway will run from the Chinese border to the capital Vientiane.

Laos' communist government will need to pay villagers and city dwellers on the route for their land, as its 30 percent contribution to the project.

Many Vientiane residents whose property is due to be expropriated have expressed hopes that they will be adequately compensate.

China and Laos last year agreed to build a medium high-speed (200-kilometer-per-hour) rail link between Boten, Luang Namtha province and Vientiane, a distance of about 500 kilometers.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More

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