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Construction of the Fifth Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge to Prepare for the ASEAN Economic Community

28 February 2013 (Readers 1556)
The Department of Highways will accelerate the feasibility study of the construction of the fifth Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge in preparation for the ASEAN Economic Community.

Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipant said that the feasibility study of the project is expected to begin in 2014 and the construction is likely to start in 2015, when the ASEAN Economic Community is in place.

Mr. Chadchart visited Laos and Vietnam recently to discuss the construction of the new bridge across the Mekong River, which will link Bueng Kan province in northeastern Thailand with Pak Sane town in Bolikhamxai province of Laos.

The 1.6-kilometer-long bridge will cost an estimated two billion baht, while the feasibility study is expected to cost 30 million baht. Construction of the project will require a period of three years. The bridge is likely to be opened in 2017. The project was proposed by the Bueng Kan Chamber of Commerce and Lao PDR. The mobile Cabinet meeting in Udon Thani on 22 February suggested a study of the project in terms of commercial viability and social and environmental impacts.

The project will open up a new border trade route between northeastern Thailand and southern Laos along the East-West Economic Corridor. It will also connect with Myanmar, Vietnam, and southern China and shorten traveling time and save transportation costs.

The fifth Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge will also boost border trade and investment between Thailand and neighboring countries, while providing greater business opportunities in ASEAN.

Today, Bueng Kan province depends mainly on ferries and boats for goods transport to neighboring countries through the Bueng Kan Pak Sane border checkpoint. Cross-border trade through this checkpoint came to 5.18 billion baht in 2011. The amount rose to 5.37 billion baht in 2012 and is likely to continue to increase. Around 128,000 people cross the border by boat each year.

There are currently four Thai-Lao friendship bridges. Thailand and Laos officially opened the First Friendship Bridge, linking Nong Khai in northeastern Thailand with the Lao capital of Vientiane, on 8 April 1994. The Second Friendship Bridge, linking Mukdahan, also in northeastern Thailand, with the central Lao province of Savannakhet, was opened on 20 December 2006.

The Third Friendship Bridge, linking the northeastern province of Nakhon Phanom in Thailand with Khammouan province in central Laos, was opened on 11 November 2011. Construction of the Fourth Friendship Bridge began in 2010; the official opening is scheduled for the middle of 2013. The bridge links Chiang Khong district of Chiang Rai in northern Thailand with Houayxay of Bokeo province in Laos.

All the bridges will facilitate the cross-border movement of goods and people and help promote productive relations between Thailand and neighboring countries.

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