Violence has again erupted among lorry drivers at a congested Laos-China border crossing erupted, with two serious injuries and arrests reported in a brawl over line-cutting, according to media reports.
Hundreds of vehicles have waited for days to carry perishable fruit across the border, Laotian drivers and police said.
This week’s fighting broke out on the road in Nahom village of Oudomxay province, about 40 kilometres from the Laos-China border.
About a dozen Chinese truck drivers beat a Laotian truck driver with wooden sticks, leaving him unconscious. The man was taken to a local hospital where he is still being treated.
Later the same day, a score of Laotian drivers chased the Chinese drivers and assaulted them, seriously injuring one man, according to a witness .
Last month, Radio Free Asia reported that Chinese truck drivers at the border bribed traffic police in Laos to skip extremely long lines of trucks waiting to get into China.
Covid-19 protocols in China are causing major delays at the border. Only 150-200 trucks from either side are able to pass over in a day.
The trucks must be sprayed with disinfectant three times within 20 minutes of crossing as part of an effort to stop the spread of Covid-19, and the gate is only open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m..
At one point there were more than 1,000 trucks on the Laos side at the Boten border gate, and fights were breaking out between drivers over their spots in line.
Forwarders said the recently opened China-Laos railway was providing some much-needed extra capacity for China-ASEAN trade.
“We launched the China-Laos railway service in December and it was just in time,” Steve Huang, chief of DHL Global Forwarding Greater China, said. “It is really critical to have the rail alternative.”
Running between Kunming and Vientiane, the 414-kilometre railway shortens transit times to just 20-24 hours, compared with the near month-long delays on the Vietnam border, DHL said.
- George Russell