CHIANG RAI – Thai Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn will preside over the opening ceremony for a fourth Thai-Lao friendship bridge across Mekong River on the upcoming Wednesday.The 4th Thailand-Laos Friendship Bridge, opening next week, in course of construction connects Chiang Rai’s Chiang Khong district and Laos’ Bo Kaeo.
The Thai-Lao bridge will primarily help promote trade, investment and tourism among the neighboring Southeast Asian nations and southern China. It links Chiang Khong district of Chiang Rai province on the Thai side with Houay Xai capital of Bokeo province on the Lao side.
According to Chiang Khong customs chief Sornchai Soypongpray, bilateral trade between Chiang Khong and Houay Xai has already risen from 416 million US dollars to 453 million US dollars throughout this year and is expected to increase to 567 million U. S. dollars in 2015 — the year which will see the opening of an ASEAN Economic Community.
Given the bridge across the international river, cargo trucks laden with varied goods may ply between northern Thailand and Yunnan province via R3A road through Laos.
The three other Thai-Lao bridges lie between Nong Khai province on the Thai side and the Lao capital of Vientiane, between Nakorn Panom province on the Thai side and Khamouane province on the Lao side and between Mukdaharn province on the Thai side and Savannakhet province on the Lao side.
Pattana Sitthisombat, chairman of a coordination committee of 10 northern provincial chambers of commerce, said the new bridge will greatly facilitate transport of cargo from Thailand to China along Route 3A, that links Laos to Xishuangbanna and Yunnan province in China.
China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand have a joint development project known as the economic quadrangle, under the Greater Mekong Sub-region cooperation agreement.
He said the new bridge will increase traffic through Chiang Khong, particularly tourists from China.
Mr Pattana was optimistic that border trade with Laos through Chiang Rai would increase to over 100 billion baht a year, up from 30-40 billion baht, after the Asean Economic Community is launched in 2015.