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How difficult is it to build a China-Laos railway in China? First cleared the American bombs for nearly half a year…

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On December 3, 2021, the China-Laos Railway from Kunming, Yunnan, China to Vientiane, Laos finally opened to traffic. As a landmark project of the “Belt and Road”, in addition to the extremely rare construction difficulties and risks of the project itself, what is less well-known is that the engineering team will face a fatal threat during the construction process-a large number of American soldiers were buried along the railway during the Vietnam War. Unexploded ordnance (UXO) left over from local indiscriminate bombing.

The Lao National News Agency (KPL) reported in 2016 that a 16.9-kilometer-long area of ​​unexploded ordnance was discovered only at the Nateuy station of the Mowan section (Boding-Vientiane) of the China-Laos Railway. Liu Qianli, head of the China-Laos Railway Project Department of the China Power Construction Hydropower Third Bureau, revealed that he had seen more than 10 bombs measuring 30 to 40 centimeters in length from the construction area, which scared the “cold sweat on the back”.

Although it is said that “there are thunders everywhere”, China and Laos have not given up, but have cooperated with each other. According to the China Belt and Road Network, before the official start of construction, the Lao Ministry of Defense established 6 demining units, which were arranged from January to May 2017. The Chinese side adjusted the construction method and dispatched professionals with experience in EOD to assist in the work. A report by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs mentioned that during the construction of the China-Laos railway from January 2017 to July 2019, about 459 unexploded ordnance and more than 460 pieces of related debris were removed from the local 2,931 hectares of land. .

In Laos, the United States dropped 2 million tons of bombs, and China left 1,035 kilometers of railways. However, the US media can still continue to smear China, claiming that “the China-Laos railway has plunged Laos into a debt trap”. British international relations analyst Tom Foddy said the truth, “Western media are sending a strange message to Laos, ‘you are bombing your friends, but the people who build the new railway are your enemies’.” The China-Laos Railway provides a textbook A typical example of how the Western media distorts the truth and hides it.

 

The red dot is the unexploded ordnance contaminated area in Laos , and the box is the projected railway construction area

China’s nearest neighbor, Laos, is the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia. Of its 236,000 square kilometers of land, 80% are mountains and plateaus. Before the completion of the China-Laos-Kunwan Railway, the total length of domestic railways in Laos was only 3.5 kilometers, ranking fourth from the bottom among the 146 countries with railways in the world. The transportation system is very backward, and it is known as the “land-locked country”.

This “lock” locks the Lao people’s internal and external exchanges, and also limits the pace of Laos’ economic development. Therefore, the completion of the “China-Laos-Kunwan Railway” is of great significance, and the win-win cooperation brought about by the “One Belt, One Road” initiative will be an opportunity to help the Lao people have a better life.

The China-Laos Railway is the first international railway that is mainly invested and constructed by the Chinese side, adopts Chinese technical standards, uses Chinese equipment and is directly connected to the Chinese railway network. This project took five years and experienced countless hardships during the period. Not to mention the long negotiation process, the project itself still has extremely rare construction difficulties and risks, such as poor weather and geological conditions, high environmental protection requirements, and even access to unmanned areas. …

But the most troubling thing is that the engineering team faces a deadly threat during the construction process-a large number of unexploded ordnance (UXO) left by the United States during the Vietnam War were buried along the railway.

During the Vietnam War, Laos was passively involved. In order to block the supply line “Ho Chi Minh Trail” to the troops in northern Vietnam, the CIA instigated the secret extension of the battlefield to Laos. From 1964 to 1973, the United States carried out a total of 580,000 flying bombing missions, dropping more than 2 million tons and about 270 million bombs. Bombs, most of which are terrifying cluster bombs.

Cluster bombs, also known as “submunitions”, usually contain a large number of ammunition of various sizes. When the mother bomb is dropped, the opened projectile will spread over a larger area

In 9 years, 270 million, 2 million tons, which means an average of 8 bombs are dropped on Laos every minute, a total that is more than the number of bombs used throughout World War II.

At that time, the total population of Laos was only about 2 million people, which is equivalent to one ton of bombs for each Laotian, which also made Laos the country with the “most bombed per capita in human history”.

Each red dot represents a bombing

Later, the war finally ended, but the Lao people still lived in the scourge of the Vietnam War: According to the CBS report, 30% of the bombs dropped by the United States in Laos during the Vietnam War belonged to unexploded ordnance (UXO), and about 80 million bombs were destroyed. No explosion after throwing.

For decades, these unexploded bombs have been threatening the lives of the Lao people. Parts of the land in Laos cannot be cultivated because of the bomb threat. The national construction and economic development of Laos have been seriously affected. According to government statistics, from 1975 to 2008, more than 50,000 Laotians were killed by these unexploded bombs, most of them children.

Ironically, the entire US spent on clearing unexploded ordnance in Laos between 1995 and 2013 was only equivalent to bombing Laos for three days during the Vietnam War.

When President Obama visited Laos in 2016, he promised an additional $90 million to clear unexploded ordnance, but did not apologize for the bombing.

In recent years, with the education and help of all walks of life, the number of people in Laos who died of unexploded bombs has been reduced from thousands per year at the end of the war to dozens of people, but these unexploded bombs are still huge. hidden danger.

According to Laos’ Vientiane Times, in the 25 years from 1996 to 2020, the Lao bomb disposal team destroyed more than 1.6 million unexploded bombs on 70,000 hectares of land, and more than 4,200 large bombs alone. Complete removal could take 50 years or even a century. And just at the end of 2021, three more unexploded ordnance removal workers were killed in the explosion.

Because the bomb disposal team must probe the land inch by inch, and also need to protect the land to ensure future farming, it takes more than 2 months to detect 1 acre (about 0.4 hectares) of land, limited by efficiency and high expenditure, Laos The bomb removal effort has been slow.

This also makes the Mowan section of the China-Laos Railway already in the northwestern region where unexploded ordnance is not so widespread, but the density of local ammunition is still alarming.

According to a report by the Lao National News Agency (KPL) in December 2016, an area of ​​unexploded ordnance with a length of about 16.9 kilometers was discovered only at the location of Nateuy Station (Nateuy) of the Mowan Section (Boding-Vientiane) of the China-Laos Railway.

At that time, the Lao Ministry of Defense informed the Luang Namtha provincial government that one of the three villages the railway would pass through had unexploded ordnance that had not yet been cleared. They found a landmine in Nadui Village, and 70% of the Chinese companies whose survey work was in progress had to temporarily suspend work until the mines were cleared.

Almost at the same time, Liu Qianli, the head of the China-Laos Railway Project Department of the Third Bureau of Power China Hydropower, also rushed to the ancient city of Luang Prabang, Laos. After arriving at the project, he was stunned by the dense virgin forest and the roar of raptors and beasts from time to time in the forest.

But then what really frightened him to “cold sweat on his back” was the ubiquitous unexploded bombs in the deep mountains. After contacting the Lao Ministry of Defense for demining, more than 10 visually 34 or 40 bombs were discharged from the construction area. Centimeter-long bombs, “No man’s land is not scary. The scary thing is that there are many unexploded ordnance in this deep mountain and forest, which makes me feel unprecedented pressure.”

And Li Bin, commander of the China-Laos Railway Engineering Headquarters of POWERCHINA, who has 35 years of experience in engineering construction, also has a similar experience, “You can’t imagine the scene when I came here on the first day. The county magistrate took the militia to clear mines in front, The local villagers followed to chop down trees. The machinery could not drive in, so everyone walked in little by little.” “The unexploded ordnance here will not be exhausted in a hundred years. The construction process made people sweat.”

 

Li Bin shows a map of the unexploded ordnance area in the mountains of Laos from CCTV

It is no exaggeration to say that this may be one of the most dangerous railway projects in the world. But it is such a hard and dangerous “bone” that could explode at any time. China and Laos did not give up, but cooperated with each other and just gnawed it down!

According to the China Belt and Road Network, in order to ensure the smooth implementation of the project, the Lao Ministry of Defense deployed the People’s Army, and established 6 clearing units according to the bidding section to prepare relevant personnel, vehicles and necessary equipment to clear the unexploded ordnance in the marked area of ​​the project. The clearing work has been ongoing. From January to May 2017.

In order to avoid danger, the Chinese construction team also temporarily suspended construction to overcome the problem of increased project costs, adjust the construction methods, etc., and dispatched professionals with experience in detonation to assist in the work.

Pre-construction investigation, demining personnel are working in the uninhabited area of ​​the Mekong Peninsula. Picture from the WeChat public account “China Railway Eighth Bureau Report”

According to the 2019 China-Laos Railway Project Management Committee data, from January 2017 to 2019 During the construction of the China-Laos railway in July 2009, about 459 pieces of unexploded ordnance and more than 460 pieces of related debris were removed from the 2,931 hectares of land in the area.

The report also emphasizes that although this is only a drop in the bucket in front of the number of nearly 80 million unexploded bombs in Laos, and more funds and materials are needed to completely remove these “war legacy”, it can be seen from this that China’s “Belt and Road” cooperation can help. play a “substantive role” in the matter.

Tomorrow (January 3), the China-Laos Railway will usher in a “full moon”, and both passengers and cargo will be prosperous in this month.

According to statistics from the China Railway Kunming Bureau Group, as of December 31, 2021, the China-Laos Railway has opened 380 freight trains, carrying 150,000 tons of freight. The imported goods mainly include natural rubber, iron ore, and chemical fertilizers; the export goods mainly include vegetables, fruits, and mechanical and electrical products. In addition, the domestic section of the China-Laos Railway has transported 580,000 passengers.

As of December 20, the Laos section of the China-Laos Railway has sent a total of 22,000 passengers. Every day, many Lao people actively buy tickets, experience the positive changes brought by the China-Laos Railway to their work and life, and express their love and support for the railway with practical actions.

According to the Laos’ Vientiane Times, during the ride, the reporter found that many passengers would put paper cups on the small table and use their mobile phones to take a video of the water in the cups not spilling out, saying “ka ka ka” (Spoken Lao, meaning very good).

In an exclusive interview with Xinhua News Agency a few days ago, Vice President of the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry Benle Luang Pase said that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which took effect on January 1 this year, is of great significance to promoting intra-regional free trade. The China-Laos Railway It will also play a greater role.

On January 1, the first international freight train of the China-Laos Railway in the new year departs from Xinhua News Agency

However, even if this is an innovation that cannot find faults and win many, the smears of the West are never absent.

In Laos, the United States dropped 2 million tons of bombs, and China left 1,035 kilometers of railways. However, the US media can still continue to smear China, claiming that “the China-Laos railway has put Laos in a debt trap”, and even worried that Laos will become more and more economically dependent on China, resulting in being “politically bound” by China.

On the day when the China-Laos railway was opened to traffic, Tom Foddy, an expert in British international relations analysis, told the truth. He said the Western media is sending a strange message to Laos – “It is your friend who bombs you, but the enemy who builds your new railway for you”.

Tom Foday wrote in the article that such a statement is both insulting and disregarding the contemporary history of Laos. As anyone with knowledge of Laos history knows, the country to fear is the United States, not China. “It was the United States that dropped cluster bombs on Laos, which also led to the removal of unexploded bombs when building new railways today. How can the Western mainstream media be indifferent to such atrocities? How can they claim that China is a ‘real threat’ to Laos, while the United States and the Is its ally acting in Laos’ ‘real interest’?”

China helped Laos build a railway that would bring huge economic benefits, but was described by the West as an “evil and malicious railway”, while the fact that the United States dropped hundreds of millions of bombs was “forgotten”. He argues that the China-Laos railway provides a textbook example of how the Western media can distort facts and hide the truth, while ignoring stark realities.

On December 21, 2021, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said in response to an inquiry at a regular press conference that the China-Laos Railway is a flagship project for the mutually beneficial cooperation and joint construction of the “Belt and Road” between the two countries. The China-Laos Railway has achieved tangible results.

Regarding Lao Prime Minister Pankan’s refutation of the outside world’s slander against the China-Laos Railway in an interview, he emphasized that the so-called “China-Laos Railway has caused Laos to fall into a debt trap” is a complete slander, saying that the China-Laos Railway meets the development needs of the Lao people and will greatly Promote people and trade exchanges and bring more well-being to the people. Zhao Lijian said that as Prime Minister Pankan said, the China-Laos railway meets the development needs of Laos. Laos has superior natural endowments and huge development potential. One of the main obstacles it faced before is that as a landlocked country, the transportation with the outside world is very inconvenient. “The fragrance of wine is not afraid of deep alleys”, the China-Laos Railway is to open up this deep alley, help Laos’ strategy of “locking the country into a land-linked country”, activating the vitality of Laos’ development, and shortening the distance between Laos and the world, so that everyone can not only smell, You can also drink a variety of “fine wines” from Laos.

 

Source: guancha.cn (Ruan Jiaqi)

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