China-Lao rail workers may reach 100,000

Vientiane Times/Asia News Network

The total number of workers needed for the Laos-China rail project throughout the five years of its construction could reach 100,000 people, Lao Deputy Prime Minister Somsavat Lengsavadhas has said. Somsavat, who is in charge of the project, told the recent ordinary session of his nation’s National Assembly that Laos and the Chinese contractors are preparing to assemble a workforce of sufficient size to carry out the project. The US$6.04 billion project has several different components and requires workers with varying skills. The Lao government and mainland Chinese authorities took part in a groundbreaking ceremony on Dec. 2 in Vientiane to symbolize the start of construction of the 427-kilometer railway, which will connect the Lao capital to the mainland Chinese border. Construction of the Laos-China joint venture, which is split in a 30-70 share, is expected to take five years to complete. Somsavat said central and local authorities in Laos are now seeking workers to be trained and recruited for the project. However, there is a concern that Lao workers could be at a disadvantage when it comes to recruitment during the construction stage as they have no experience of this type of work.

The authorities are now selecting Lao officials who could go to mainland China to take training courses on various aspects of railway operation and management so they would complete their studies in time to operate the railway. Lao-Sino Railway Project Joint Preparatory Team leader Zhao Xiang told Somsavat during his visit to Vientiane in November that mainland China plans to establish a training center in Yunnan province to provide rail-related know-how and training for relevant staff and officials. Laos and mainland China are also preparing to import the necessary machinery and construction equipment and assemble a sizeable Chinese workforce to help with construction, as well as ensure that sufficient food is available to feed the influx of workers. The authorities are also collecting information concerning the land, buildings and crops owned by people living in areas that have been designated for the railway in order to calculate the cost of compensation payouts. Another consideration is the presence of unexploded ordnance along the proposed route, which will need to be surveyed and cleared.