Fourth Lao-Thai Mekong bridge link soon to open

By Khonesavanh Latsaphao | Source: Vientiane Times
Lao and Thai officials are discussing the official opening of the fourth Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge across the Mekong River in Bokeo province.

Deputy Head of the Fourth Mekong River Bridge Construction Project, Thavone Vorabud, told Vientiane Times on Friday that officials in Laos and Thailand have suggested the opening ceremony take place some time in September.

“We are not still sure of the most suitable day,” he said. The officials will meet again to further discuss the matter.

Thavone said construction of the bridge is on track to finish at the end of June and was reported to be 90 per cent complete last month.

On the Lao side, workers are asphalting the approach road and building two smaller bridges to link with other roads in the province.

Construction of the bridge began in June 2010 and an extension to the deadline was approved after initial delays.

The bridge is part of the Greater Mekong Sub-Region North-South Economic Corridor, which links Chiang Rai province in Thailand to Yunnan province in China, via Laos. Locally, it will connect Done village in Huayxai district, Bokeo province, with Ing village in Chiang Rai province.

The 14.7 metre wide bridge will speed the transport of goods between Laos, Thailand, Myanmar and China, and open up the area to further tourism development. The project is jointly funded by Laos and Thailand, with the total cost exceeding US$44.8 million.

According to Bokeo provincial officials, the Chinese government is providing US$20 million in grant aid so the Lao government can meet its 50 per cent share of the costs. Laos will also provide more than 4 billion kip (US$0.5 million) in compensation payouts for people whose properties are affected on the Lao side of the bridge.

The bridge is about nine kilometres from Road R3, which heads north to China. It is being built to the same design as the first Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge – which opened in 1994 – linking Vientiane with Thailand’s Nong Khai province.

A Special Economic Zone is under development in Bokeo province in an effort to boost economic activity in the region.

*US$1 = 7,859 Lao kip