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FRIENDSHIP SPAN

4th Thai-Lao Bridge worth Bt1 bn opens

THE OPENING of the Fourth Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge, worth more than Bt1 billion, is expected to boost trade, investment and tourism among neighbouring Southeast Asian nations and southern China, and will also support the implementation of Asean Economic Community in 2015.

Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn yesterday officially opened the bridge, which links Chiang Khong district of Chiang Rai province with Houay Xai, capital of Bokeo province in Laos.

The First Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge links Nong Khai with Vientiane, while the second connects Mukdahan province with Savannakhet. The third links Nakhon Phanom with Kammouane.

The Fourth Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge will connect with the 1,800-kilometre Route R3A, which links Bangkok and Kunming, capital of southern China's Yunnan province. The bridge is expected to boost economic and trade activities of the three countries.

It is hoped that Route R3A will facilitate transport among countries in the Greater Mekong Subregion, supporting economic integration at the macro level, including tourism and cultural exchanges. It should also present opportunities for Thailand to draw more tourists from southern China.

Chawalit Suthamwong, president of the Chiang Rai Chamber of Commerce, said border trade among Thailand, Laos and China should be made systematic, especially in the regulatory area, for the mutual benefit of all three countries.

"After the opening of the Fourth Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge, there will be clear moves by investment groups from China, which have already conducted investment surveys in Chiang Khong district.

"As for Thai businesspeople, some |of them are waiting for business opportunities [to present themselves] after the bridge opens.

"Many land plots in Chiang Khong have been [acquired] by large investment groups," he said.


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