Chinese workers staged a protest at the Sino-Agri Potash Company in Khammouane Province on Sunday after working without pay.
Some 35 laborers, all Chinese nationals, began to assemble at their worksite after promises made by their employer went unfulfilled.
The laborers had been hired by Zing An Construction Company to build dormitory buildings for Sino-Agri Potash Co. Ltd in Dong Tai Village, Thakhek District, and were to be repatriated to China upon completion of the construction project.
However, when the company failed to pay the workers, they remained at the site without pay for two months.
Khammouane News reports that when the protests became unmanageable, Lao military officers stationed at the company headquarters rushed to the scene, firing their rifles into the air to try to dispel the demonstrators.
Deputy Director of Khammouane Provincial Military Headquarters, Lieutenant Colonel Bounlerth Bouphavanh, issued a statement yesterday, saying that Zing An Company had promised to pay for the workers’ repatriation to China once the worker dormitory project was completed.
“After the construction project was completed in November 2021, Sino-Agri Potash paid 85% of the construction cost to Zing An as agreed, with the rest to be paid after a project review,” said Lieutenant Colonel Bounlerth.
Due to the Covid-19 outbreak amid rising costs, workers’ repatriation and travel expenses increased from CNY 3,000 to CNY 5,000 per person, however, Zing An said it would not pay the higher rates.
“The Zing An Company also failed to pay the workers for two months, including travel expenses, which caused workers to gather in protest,” said Lieutenant Colonel Bounlerth.
Rather than protesting against Zing An, the Chinese laborers blocked access to the Sino-Agri Potash Company dormitories that they had constructed, asking Sino-Agri Potash for assistance in requesting that Zing An pay their outstanding salaries and repatriation expenses.
The situation had already deteriorated by the time military officers arrived at the scene, according to Colonel Bounlerth, who said that the military made the decision to fire into the air as a last resort in attempts to disperse the crowd.
“Fortunately, no one was injured during the incident,” said Colonel Boulerth.
Mediation continues between the laborers and the construction company.