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International relations

Land-locked Laos on track for controversial China rail link

Work commences on long-planned railway project but broader benefits remain in question

Tunnel drilling underway on a mountain outside Luang Prabang -- one of 75 tunnels to be drilled for the railway. (Photo by Peter Janssen)

LUANG PRABANG, Laos -- Construction of a 414km railway line linking China to mainland Southeast Asia through Laos is underway in Phonesai village, about 30km north of Luang Prabang, the country's ancient former capital and modern-day tourism center. A workers' dormitory has been built under a banner in Laotian reading: "The People of Laos are Proud to Build the Railway with Friendship, Happiness, Security and Harmony." The glaring discrepancy here is that all the workers in the dormitory are Chinese.

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