Thailand and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic already jointly operate two bridges across the Mekong River, and a new bridge, the third of its kind, will soon be constructed, with the foundation-stone laying ceremony scheduled for Friday, 6 March 2009.
The Third Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge will link Hom village in At Samat subdistrict, Mueang district, Nakhon Phanom province in northeastern Thailand, with Veuntayvillage, Khammouan province in Laos.
Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn will preside over the foundation-stone laying ceremony on March 6. The ceremony will take place at two spots, one at Veuntay village in Khammouan, at 3:00 p.m., and the other at Hom village in Nakhon Phanom, at 4:00 p.m. Lao Vice President Bounngang Vorachit, will represent Lao PDR at the ceremony.
Also present at the official groundbreaking ceremony will be Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, Lao Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh, and ministers and high-ranking officials from both sides.
Thailand is responsible for the construction cost of the Third Friendship Bridge, which is estimated at 1,761 million baht. The concrete bridge will be 788 meters long and 13 meters wide. It will require a period of 30 months for the construction. When completed, the cross-border facility will become a new land route bringing Thailand and Laos closer together.
The bridge will facilitate the cross-border movement of goods and people from Thailand to Laos and vice versa. It will create business opportunities and generate economic activities between the two countries, especially in trade, investment, and tourism. Apart from Thailand and Laos, this bridge will also make it easier for Thailand to connect with Vietnam, another country in the Greater Mekong Subregion.
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 operations of the bridges across the Mekong River have played a vital role in promoting relations between Thailand and neighboring countries. They have also boosted cross-border trade.
From January to November 2008, cross-border trade between Thailand and Laos totaled almost 73 billion baht. It is expected to increase by 25 percent in 2009. Many Thai products, especially consumer goods, machinery, and IT products, are still in great demand in Laos. Thailand now ranks first among Laos’ trading partners and it still remains the largest foreign investor in Laos.