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“You won’t find a single Chinese person in Oudomxai who doesn’t want the railway to happen.
It will bring more Chinese people and more business for us,” said Ah Hai, a 27-year-old from Guangzhou in southern China, who moved to Oudomxai two months ago to run a shop front gambling operation catering to Chinese punters.
“We first heard the rumour that the railway would come through here in 2010,” he says “Then the Chinese came to survey the land last year.
Just servicing the yearly interest on the loan will amount to almost 20% of Laos’s annual government spending, according to Tristan Knowles, a director of Economists at Large, a Melbourne-based think tank, who has made a study of the financial implications of the railway. I imagine they will have to prune every part of the government budget,” said Mr Knowles. Beijing is believed to be waiting for the Thai parliament to approve a planned £41 billion infrastructure upgrade, which will include a high-speed rail line from the Laos border to Bangkok, before signing off on the loan.
They described the project as a “priority” and called for the formal agreement to build the railway to be “signed soon”.
Starting from Kunming in Southwest China’s Yunnan Province, the railway will travel south through neighbouring Laos and then into Thailand.
That bill is expected to pass within a couple of months and will guarantee that the railway reaches the increasingly lucrative Thai market.
Mr Vue and his fellow villagers, though, appear to be on the fast track to nowhere.