No saying better encapsulates the major obstacle facing Laos than "geography is destiny". The only landlocked country in Southeast Asia, Laos has historically relied heavily on domestic subsistence agriculture with little opportunity for much international commerce. Facing some of the world's highest poverty and unemployment rates, Laos hopes to change this narrative of international isolation in the years to come with the help of the Chinese and Thai governments. Since 2010, plans have been under consideration to construct a high-speed railway between Kunming and Vientiane, Laos' capital. While the start date of the project has been pushed back, this year the three governments all sound confident that construction of the seven billion dollar project will begin. If all goes as projected, passengers may, within the next decade, be able to hop onto a high speed rail from Kunming all the way to Singapore.

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Singaporean Carmen Kok regrets that she never made it to university. She’s not letting her daughter make the same mistake, even if she has to send her abroad to get a place. 
“You can’t rise up in Singapore without a degree,” said Kok, 47, who plans to spend three times what she makes in a year as a hairdresser to send her daughter to college in South Korea. “She may be able to get a job if she doesn’t go to university, but she can get a higher salary if she goes.”

It is generally advisable not to trust touts, but the boy who approached me as I was waiting for my bag at the airport made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I’d arrived in Sittwe on the afternoon flight from Yangon, fearing I was far too late to find onward transport. But within 10 minutes I was on the back of a motorcycle heading towards the port, and at 4pm I was aboard a converted green wooden fishing boat headed for my destination: Mrauk Oo.

Forestry officials are hoping that a new report released yesterday naming the Prey Lang forest as one of the world’s top 10 biodiversity hot spots will strengthen a proposal to declare the forest a protected area. The assessment found that Prey Lang ranks as “one of the more significant areas of lowland evergreen forest in the Indo-Burma region”. The forest is home to almost 1,000 species of flora and fauna, a main livelihood source for the 250,000 people living in adjacent areas and a watershed for the Tonle Sap Lake, from which a significant proportion of the national economy derives.

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