The Lao and Thai governments have officially given the green light to the construction of the 5th Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge that will soon link Beung Kan Province in northeastern Thailand to Paksan, Bolikhamxay Province in Laos.
An anonymous source from the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MPWT)) told local newspaper The Vientiane Times on Tuesday that Lao and Thai officials approved the plans when they met in Paksé earlier this year.
“The two bridges may be built at the same time, but the date of construction will need further consideration,” the MPWT source said.
The 1.6km-long bridge is likely to cost over USD$110 million (3.6 billion baht). Land clearing for the construction of a road heading to the site in Beung Kan province has already started with land along the road being expropriated and landowners compensated. Rubber trees along the route have also been felled for the road construction.
Thai PBS reports that it is likely that construction will begin towards the end of this year.
Once complete, the bridge will serve as a major transport route that will link Thailand with several cities in Vietnam. Departing from Beung Kan Province, it would only take vehicles 150km of travel to reach Nge An Province in Vietnam via Lao National Highway No. 8 through Bolikhamxay. In Nge An, the route then links up with roads to Hanoi, Danang and other cities in Vietnam.
In addition, the new bridge will further permit accessibility to the northern Lao provinces of Xieng Khuang and Huaphan to tourists from Thailand. The bridge will likely provide a further boost to Bolikhamxay’s already fast-growing economy which boats an economic growth rate of 8% last year with a GDP of about 5 trillion kip and average annual per capita income of 17.9 million kip (USD $2,151).
Beung Kan province depends mainly on ferries and boats for goods transport to neighboring countries through the Beung Kan – Paksan border checkpoint. Cross-border trade through this checkpoint came to approximately USD $160 million, according to statistics in 2011. The amount rose to USD $168 million in 2012 and is likely to continue to increase. Around 128,000 people cross the border by boat each year.
About the Lao-Thai Friendship Bridges
There are currently four Thai-Lao Friendship Bridges. Both countries officially opened the first Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge, linking Nong Khai in northeastern Thailand with the Lao capital of Vientiane, on the 8th of April, 1994 (Australian Government aid, USD$30 million construction cost).
The second Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge, linking Mukdahan, also in northeastern Thailand, with the central Lao province of Savannakhet, was opened on the 20th of December, 2006 (low-interest loan from the Japanese Government, construction cost of USD$70 million).
The third Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge, linking the northeastern province of Nakhon Phanom in Thailand with Khammouan province in central Laos, was opened on the 11th of November, 2011 (Thai Government grant, construction cost of approximately USD$60 million).
The fourth Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge links Chiang Khong District of Chiang Rai Province in northern Thailand with Houayxay of Bokeo Province in Laos and was opened at the end of 2013, made possible due to a joint investment by the Thai and Chinese Governments.