Lao President Bounnhang Vorachith called for more Lao workers to be employed by the Laos-China Railway Project when he visited a section of the railway under construction in Vientiane on Friday.

According to project reports, about 16,000 people are employed in the construction of the 414km railway, of whom about 4,500 are Lao.

The railway slices through western Laos from the Boten-Mohan border crossing with China in Luang Namtha province. It passes through Oudomxay, Luang Prabang and Vientiane provinces, and ends in the Lao capital.

“We want to see more Lao people working on this project as there are many more who could be employed,” President Bounnhang said.

He added that when the railway is finished, those who manage and operate it in the future will be the descendants of the Lao workers employed in its construction today.

The railway will be beneficial not only for the two parties and states that share in the project, but its construction must ensure that the peoples of Laos and China come together, the president said.

At the same time, people should be encouraged to grow crops and raise animals to supply the food needs of those building the railway, he added.

Laos has no coastline but is a transit country for goods passing through the region. It is the desire of the two parties and states and the hope of the people that Laos will become a significant land link within the region.

The Laos-China railway is the starting point in a new era of cooperation between Laos and China, Bounnhang said.

It is common knowledge that Laos and China share rivers and have neighbouring territories. This is important for the development of China’s Belt and Road Initiative which will enhance cooperation between the two countries and benefit their peoples.

The scheme is a long-lasting and stable cooperation strategy for which Chinese President Xi Jinping has set ambitious goals, Bounnhang added.

Considerable progress has been made in the construction of the Laos-China railway, which has exceeded expectations.

Everyone is Laos is pleased that the railway is being built and there are hopes that it will improve the well-being of all ethnic groups.

The Laos-China Railway Company is building the railway on challenging terrain, with the track crossing rivers and passing through mountains and forests. Thanks to the diligent efforts of both parties and states, construction has proceeded at a rapid pace.

The railway will promote friendship and mutual assistance in ways that meet the needs of the parties, states and peoples of Laos and China so they will work together more efficiently and closely than ever, Bounnhang said.

The 37.4 billion yuan ($5.566 billion) railway is set for completion in 2021.

To date, more than 13 billion yuan has been invested in the project. Some 87 per cent of road construction work is now complete, 54 per cent of the 13 tunnels have been built, and 43 per cent of all bridges are finished.

From Vientiane, the railway will run south through Thailand and Malaysia, ending at Singapore which has a large port where sea freight is unloaded and dispatched. VIENTIANE TIMES/ASIA NEWS NETWORK