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Vol. 24 No.2
April - June 2007

ISSN 0125-0159

Editor’s Note
International Forum
Thailand Moving with ASEAN Towards a Caring and Sharing Society
Prayong Ronnarong: Prime Example of a Community Leader
BOI and Its Important Roles in Promoting Investors in Global Business Arenas
Special Feature
China - ASEAN Cooperation Program
Human Security
Protecting the Rights of Immigrant Workers
Foreign Relations
The Second Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge: A New Link between Thailand and Its Close Neighbors
Trends of Energy Use and Development in Thailand
Thai Touch
Ko Phra Thong: A Savanna Paradise

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The Second Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge: A New Link between Thailand and Its Close Neighbors

The Second Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge across the Mekong River has opened up a new era of cooperation between Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. This new transportation network has seen more tourists heading overland to the three countries along Route 9, which stretches from Laos to Vietnam.

Following the success of the First Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge (Nong Khai–Vientiane) on 8 April 1994, the Second Friendship Bridge, linking northeastern Thailand in Mukdahan province with central Laos in Savannakhet province, was officially opened on 20 December 2006. However, it was not until 9 January 2007 when the new bridge was open to traffic after the two sides reached agreement on remaining matters.

The official opening was a historic event since it was witnessed by three prime ministers: Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont of Thailand, Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn represented His Majesty the King in presiding over the official inauguration, while Lao Vice President Bounnhang Vorachith represented the Lao side. For the first Friendship Bridge, the traffic changeover is on the Lao side, but for the second bridge, it is on the Thai side.

The Greater Mekong Subregion, comprising Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, and China’s southern province of Yunnan, had agreed to develop road networks in accordance with the East-West Economic Corridor project, which is aimed at promoting economic and social development in this subregion. The project links four countries, namely Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Myanmar, and will also open up communications routes to other countries, such as China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Bangladesh, and India. As an integral part of this project, the Second Friendship Bridge came into existence to help reduce transport costs and provide convenient land transport access, not only in the Greater Mekong Subregion, but also the entire region of Asia.

It is regarded as a significant symbol for Thai-Lao cooperation. The 1,600-meter-long bridge has helped free Laos from its land-locked confines and facilitated the cross-border movement of goods and people from Thailand to Vietnam and vice versa. It is helping promote trade, tourism, agricultural and industrial development, and employment generation, as well. Thailand and Laos are operating jointly a bus service from Mukdahan to Savannakhet via the bridge, with a distance of 17 kilometers. A number of tourists from Thailand cross the bridge and travel along Route 9 to central Vietnam. At the same time, many Vietnamese tourists enter Thailand using this route and the Second Friendship Bridge. The waiving of visa requirements between Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam is adding to the tourism boom. Thailand, in particular, was cited as one of the favorite destinations among Vietnamese tourists.

Passing over the bridge and Route 9, a group of 50 military and civilian officials and members of the media, led by Lieutenant General Palangoon Klaharn, Director of the Directorate of Joint Civil Affairs, Office of the Supreme Commander, made a visit to Laos and Vietnam from 9 to 13 March 2007. The objectives were to promote Thailand’s relations with these two close neighbors, survey communications links, and observe local cultures and lifestyles.

The trip brought them to Savannakhet in Laos and Quang Tri, Hue, Danang, and Hoi An in Vietnam. They received a warm welcome from Lao and Vietnamese authorities, who told them about new investment opportunities and incentives there and urged Thai business people to invest more in both countries. Thailand now ranks first among the largest foreign investors in Laos and comes to 12th in Vietnam.

The newest Friendship Bridge is certain to lead to ever-closer and ever-stronger cooperation between Thailand and its neighbors.

Story: Jasmine
Photos: Boonchoo Siritanyanon

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