The Laotian man lost in a city he no longer knows

A father visits his daughter in the city. But the city has changed. Can his love for his daughter overcome his sense of alienation?
Anouphong Khounphithack & Palin Joehunt

As part of its expansion through the Belt & Road Initiative, China has invested heavily in developing Laos. Some recent projects included the Laos-China highway project – a large-scale project to build highways, railways, new economic zones, power plants, and dams – with the aim to better connect Laos to China. 

These projects have had a significant impact on the people of Laos. Land has been taken away from village people without proper compensation or relocation, leading to the loss of livelihood for many families. Furthermore, the influx of Chinese workers for these development projects increased Chinese dominance within the cities of Laos, leading to a sense of alienation experienced by Laotians living in the city.


A father from a rural village nearby Vientiane visits his daughter in the city. In the city, he sees and hears sights alien to him. Since the Chinese investments and businesses have flooded Laos, Chinese signs have appeared all over and even Laotians are speaking Chinese. This illustrated story highlights his sense of alienation.

This illustrated story is commissioned by Innovation for Change – East Asia. It is part of the project ‘Stories of the Impact of China’s BRI’, which features eight stories about communities who are severely impacted by projects that fall under China’s BRI or other Chinese-led development. For each story, we brought together a local community partner and an artist/storyteller. The local community partner did the research and analysis of the issues at stake for their community. After that, the artist/storyteller, with the guidance of a story curator, turned the research into a story. Featuring stories from Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, this project aims to show the range of adverse impacts brought on by developments that do not listen to the concerns of the affected communities. In amplifying their voices, we hope they can be heard.


Artwork & Story by Anouphong Khounphithack & Palin Joehunt

Research by Local Community Partner (The name of the local community partner is withheld for their security)

Anouphong Khounphithack, age 23, is inspired by Japanese anime and cartoon shows such as Tom & Jerry and Courage the Cowardly Dog. In 2019, he studied Animation in Mongolia, before continuing as a student at the National Institute of Fine Art in Laos, with a major in visual communication art and animation. He dreams of starting his own animation studio in Vientiane, Laos, with a small group of friends, and hopes to call it Meow Meow Studio.

Palin Joehunt, age 44, is a freelance artist based in Vientiane, Laos. Palin can do animation in many styles but his best is 90s Japanese manga style. When he was younger, there was no way to earn money from doing manga, so he practiced drawing as a hobby and started a motorcycle business. Today he is a 2D Animation professor at National Institute of Fine Art in Laos.


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