I have always been fascinated about railways and stories around it. When I learned about the Trans Asian Railway Network, a blueprint by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) to create a network of rail tracks across Asia and Europe, I was immediately intrigued. This curiosity led me to Laos, a landlocked country in South East Asia that is one of the missing links in this blueprint. The communist nation, typically described as poor and underdeveloped, has an ambitious plan to build a highspeed train that would connect it to China and Thailand. Currently, there is only 3.5km of railtrack in Laos. For a country with little history of rail, the proposed highspeed train could potentially generate economic benefits and propel its development. At the same time, it could cause groups of people to experience new poverty.
What started out as a simple inquiry about Laos highspeed railway project, very quickly turned into a fascinating experience as I journeyed into the world of economists, sociologists, politicians and locals. The interwoven complexities of this mega project revealed themselves to me through their perspectives. Instead of finding answers, I walked away with a myriad of questions. Could Laos’ dream be a nightmare in disguise? This series of images, part of a work in progress project ‘Unlocking Laos’, is not an attempt to predict the future, neither is it an attempt to provide a detailed analysis of the present. It is instead, an attempt to paint a portrait of a particular country at a particular time, and to provide an understanding of the major forces of change that are acting upon it. I hope my project will urge my audience to ask some questions, relating to the welfare of the people who inhabit this country, and the integrity of the natural world in which they exist and upon which they depend.