Well, it looks like that the bus has been moved as I took a picture on the 1st of July when it was still standing on the road and caused a problem for the other traffic.Jurgen;264380 wrote: Happy to follow your latest Laos trip David. I have similar pictures in my box (like the "oops" bus), from my November trip
2wheels;265882 wrote: re Logging (from Radio Free Asia)
(PS Thanks for the kind words David. Enjoying reading your report; some great pics too. Khun Hmong rock!!!)
"Forestry Bribes Increasing
More Lao forestry officials are taking bribes in exchange for illegal logging concessions.
Illegally cut timber on its way to Vietnam, seized by Lao forestry officials in northern Houaphan province, Oct. 27, 2007.
BANGKOK—The number of forestry officials in Laos charged with taking bribes is increasing despite an ongoing crackdown, according to a top government lawyer.
Rangsy Sibounheuang, deputy chief public prosecutor, said logging companies in central Laos have been bribing officials to cut logs beyond their government-approved quotas.
“If a lumber company’s quota allows them to cut 1,000 cubic meters (35,300 cubic feet) of wood, they will cut 1,500 cubic meters (53,000 cubic feet) instead and then bribe the inspectors for the difference,” he said.
“This is happening primarily in Savannakhet and Khammuan provinces and the recipients of the bribes are mainly middle-level officials—we’ve convicted some of them already.”
But Rangsy Sibounheuang said the number of incidents involving bribery of forestry officials is slowing after two to three years of increases because stricter penalties are proving to be an effective deterrent to would-be offenders.
“[The bribery] is now decreasing because we have been giving out stiff penalties. If the incident is serious enough, it will merit jail time and fines,” he said, adding that penalties differ from case to case and also depend on the level of the official involved.
Rangsy Sibounheuang said that while the bribing of Lao forestry officials is largely perpetrated by logging companies, widescale illegal logging continues throughout Laos, including at the individual level.
“It’s not just companies, but also citizens without permits. Citizens continue to illegally cut logs in national forestry preserves as well as in national parks,” he said.
Logging remains a problem
Despite a number of new regulations regarding the timber industry, excessive logging remains a serious problem in Laos.
According to a recent World Bank report, a relatively low population density and moderate rate of natural resource exploitation compared with neighboring countries have allowed significant natural resources in Laos to survive.
But the report added that natural resources play a significant role in supporting rural livelihoods and contributing towards the national economy.
While Laos enjoys forest cover that is substantially higher than in surrounding countries, it is precisely this natural resource that attracts investment from abroad.
The report named timber and hydropower as the country’s primary exports, accounting for two-thirds of total export value.
“Forest cover has declined from 70 percent to 43 percent over the last 50 years, largely due to clearing of lowland forest for permanent agriculture and unsustainable logging,” the report said.
Forest cover shrinking
The World Wildlife Federation (WWF) says forest cover in Laos is currently shrinking by 0.6 percent a year.
“If no action is taken to change this trend, Lao’s forests will dwindle to 31 percent by 2020,” the wildlife and environmental protection organization said.
WWF called for strengthened management capacity for the country’s extensive national protected areas and protection forests, which encompass about 50 percent of national forest cover.
It said a wave of foreign investment from China, Thailand, and Vietnam is bringing economic growth and job opportunities to Laos but also increasing pressure on land and local communities who utilize the country’s natural resources.
The Lao government has targeted a total area of 500,000 hectares (1.24 million acres) of industrial tree plantations by 2020 for pulp export, part of insufficient land-use planning that is encroaching into local community boundaries and protected forest areas, WWF said.
In other cases, agricultural production is moving into protected forest areas leading to deforestation, wildlife trade and biodiversity loss.
Original reporting by Krongkran Koyanakkul for RFA’s Lao service. Lao service director: Viengsay Luangkhot. Translation by Viengsay Luangkhot. Executive producer: Susan Lavery. Written for the Web in English by Joshua Lipes. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.
Copyright © 1998-2011 Radio Free Asia. All rights reserved."
The scenery is indeed spectacular & it is hard not to take endless photos of the Nam Song & the karsts across the river.From Travel Fish
Situated halfway down the long Vientiane to Luang Prabang highway, Vang Vieng has become (for better or worse) the pit stop of Laos. Surrounded by splendid karst scenery and overflowing with activities such as caving and tubing down the river, many weary travellers extend their stay here far longer than originally planned.
For many, Vang Vieng is a highlight of their trip to Laos. If your idea of an ideal night involves scoffing happy pizza and quaffing buckets of Lao-Lao and coke to a background of infinite friends episodes, then you're going to absolutely love this place. Vang Vieng has become where backpackers shamelessly indulge in western food, alcohol, drugs and, yes, American sitcoms.
The transformation of this once sleepy town into a backpacker circus is hard to overlook, and others see Vang Vieng as an example of tourism at its worst. While you'll probably still enjoy your stay — after all the scenery is spectacular — others push on to more interesting spots in Laos after only one night.
Vang Vieng is riddled with such an array of guesthouses (some of which can be booked online), restaurants and shops that it's hard to know what to do on arrival. Just about every shopfront on the main streets of this small but rapidly developing town caters to the tourist dollar. If you're looking for some genuine Lao culture, Vang Vieng is the wrong place.
The reason this tourist mecca has sprung up is the gorgeous Nam Song river and the magnificent karst mountains lining it. The imposing limestone structures rise up out of the land and run for kilometres, framing the rice fields and lazy river. Stunning at any hour, the mountains are particularly beautiful with the golden pink glow of sunset behind them, the perfect time to sit and have a drink at one of the plethora of riverside restaurants..
When I first read the reports, I thought yeah yeah, maybe in 10 more years, but after seeing the staff & vehicles in Vang Vieng it is full speed ahead & I don't doubt that it will happen in just a few years, although the 2014 date still seems unrealistic. But then again. There are a few thousand Chinese in the country working non-stop on the project. West of Phou Khoun supposedly they are digging the tunnels already & there are huge camps of Burmese? labourers out there doing the heavy work. How fast time changes in Laos. Best ride & go there asap.Billion dollars Laos-China high speed railway
The construction of the 421km High-speed railway from the Laos-China border to Vientiane will begin as planned.
Laos and China agreed that construction of the railway would begin in April 2011 to mark the 50th anniversary of Laos-China diplomatic relations and be completed within four years.
Mr Somsavat said that Laos and China signed a memorandum of understanding on the railway in April 2010 after President Choummaly Sayasone and Chinese President Hu Jintao signed an agreement to elevate relations between the two countries to that of ‘all round strategic cooperation partners’.
He also said the profile of Laos would be raised as it would be the first country in the region to have a high speed railway.
The railway would be 421km long and include 190km of tunnels and 90km of bridges. It is envisaged that electric trains travelling at 200km per hour would carry passengers and trains travelling at 120 km per hour would carry freight.
There would be five main stations along the line — at Boten, Oudomxay, Luang Prabang, Vangvieng and Vientiane.
Mr Somsavat said construction of the railway would involve 50,000 workers, adding that the project would train workers in Laos while management staff would be sent to China for training.
The railway would form part of the Asean-China rail link, which begins in Yunnan province, China, and runs to Singapore through Laos and Thailand.