Ventiane (AsiaNews / RFA) – Thousands of Laotian families, forced to abandon houses and land to make way for a railway that connects the country with China, are still awaiting the compensation promised by the government. Nonetheless, construction continues reports Rfa reports, citing local sources.
The Chinese companies involved in the project envisage its construction by 2021, despite the challenges posed by the creation of tunnels in the mountainous areas of the north of the country. A landlocked nation, Laos expects the railway to reduce the cost of exports and consumer goods while at the same time fostering its socio-economic development.
A decree issued in April 2016 states that citizens whose land is forcibly requistioned for development projects must be compensated for loss of property and income. The proponents must also ensure that the living conditions of displaced persons are the same as before the beginging of work.
A resident of the village of Chaengsavang, in the district of Na Xaythong (Vientiane), says that the teams of workers have already begun to build a section of the railway link. However, no one has yet discussed the due compensation with the displaced families.
“There are at least 20 houses that will have to be demolished and the families who live there will have to move elsewhere,” says the woman. The village school was demolished at the beginning of last year. This forced the children to attend classes at another institution, located in a nearby.
Another source reports that 12 families from the city of Muang Xay, in the province of Oudomxay, had to be compensated last month. However, the authorities have announced that the payment will be postponed “to a date to be defined” and the villagers doubt that it will be made.
Over 1000 families living in villages along the railway line, which runs from the northern province of Luang Namtha to Vientiane, have not yet received any reimbursement. However, many of them have already been evicted from their homes.
Speaking at the National Assembly at the beginning of the year, the Minister of Transport and Public Works, Bounchanh Sinthavong, said that the payments would start in June and that the funds would have amounted to 291 million US dollars.