Laos Responds to Criticism by Thai Media on Laos-China Railway

Passengers boarding the Laos-China Railway at Vientiane Station
Passengers boarding the Laos-China Railway at Vientiane Station (Photo: Teng)

State media in Laos has responded to reports from journalists in Thailand claiming that tickets for the Laos-China Railway are too expensive for ordinary people.

Thai journalist Thanom Onketphon made the claim during his NBT2HD news program, saying that with ticket prices being too expensive, ordinary Lao people would be unable to afford to travel on the recently opened Laos-China Railway.

Despite these claims, the Laos-China Railway Company says over 5,000 tickets were sold within the first week of operations, and interest in the railway remains high.

Lao National Radio released a video on Saturday in response to Thai media, saying that some journalists in Thailand lack ethics and that they should focus on facts rather than spreading fake news.

Meanwhile, Lao Phattana Daily responded by saying that snooping on neighboring countries to try to expose their weaknesses serves no purpose but to stoke the flames of animosity at a time when the region must work together in the face of the global pandemic.

The newspaper also stated that Thais need to better understand the strategy behind the Laos-China Railway, which is part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative that will connect railways across the world and allow Southeast Asian countries to send freight as far as Europe.

Laos-China Railway

Meanwhile, a prominent Thai academic says he believes the railway will bring vast opportunities to the region as a whole.

Piti Srisangnam, Director of Academic Affairs at the ASEAN Studies Centre at the Chulalongkorn University of Thailand, says that the Laos-China Railway will have a positive effect on the region as a whole, being a gateway to opportunities in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

“We don’t have to care who builds it or who pays for it. But the correct mindset is we have to see this railway as an opportunity for ASEAN to access and enlarge the market. This is the better way to reallocate both the start and end of regional value chains,” he was quoted as saying by Bangkok Post.

He says the Thai government should revise its logistics master plan to make the most of the Laos-China Railway and upgrade existing infrastructure such as the Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge and the current railways, regardless of differences in gauge stations along the line from Thailand to Laos.

Fares for travel on the Laos-China Railway were confirmed by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport in early December after careful consideration, and remain a cheaper alternative to air travel for tourists and residents of Laos.