A new bridge straddling the Mekong River between Thailand and Laos has been opened, a crucial infrastructure along one of the Greater Mekong Subregion’s (GMS) most critical economic corridors seen to facilitate trade between China and Southeast Asia, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said.
“The bridge is the ‘missing link’ along the North-South Economic Corridor, which is the main land route for trade between Yunnan province in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Thailand, as well as being a gateway for connectivity between the PRC and ASEAN countries,” said Stephen Groff, ADB vice president, in a December 11 media release.
“With all of the infrastructure in place, the potential for this corridor to become a driver of regional trade, tourism and investment can be realized,” he added.
The 480-meter-long Friendship Bridge IV, along with a viaduct, link roads, and border-control facilities, connects Houayxay, the capital of the Lao province of Bokeo on the border with Thailand, and Chiang Khong, a district in Chiang Rai Province in northern Thailand.
Before the bridge was built, people and cargo had to cross the river in ferry boats, a time-consuming, costly, and cumbersome task. Now land traffic will be able to move seamlessly along the more than 1,000-kilometer-long route connecting Kunming in China to Chiang Rai in Thailand.
GMS members include Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and Yunnan province and the Guangxi autonomous region in China. The sub-region, bound together by the Mekong River, covers an area about the size of Western Europe and has a combined population larger than that of the United States, the ADB said.
The opening of the bridge comes as ministers meet in Vientiane, Laos, for the 19th Ministerial Conference of the GMS Economic Cooperation Program. The conference is expected to endorse a new investment framework for regional development projects over the next decade.
Photo from ADB