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Laos owes more than half its foreign debt to China, including "hidden obligations," and experts say the Southeast Asian country could end up bartering away land and resources for relief.   © Illustration by Hiroko Aida
Asia Insight

Laos' debt pressure raises specter of a China vassal state

Echoes of Sri Lanka on the Mekong as muzzled public seethes over economic woes

MARWAAN MACAN-MARKAR, Asia regional correspondent | Laos

NONG KHAI, Thailand -- At gas stations in Nong Khai, a quiet Thai town on the western banks of the Mekong River, streams of vehicles pulling up reveal the troubles across the waterway in Vientiane, the capital of Laos.

The drivers with Laotian license plates come with two requests: a full tank, and extra fuel for the 20-liter containers they have on board. Many roll up in high-end SUVs or sleek Mercedes-Benzes, popular among the wealthy few in their impoverished country.

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