Lao-Thai friendship bridge planned for Vientiane province

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - The Lao and Thai governments are planning to build another “friendship” bridge to link their countries across the Mekong, bringing Vientiane province closer to the neighbouring Thai province of Loei, according to the new governor of Vientiane province. 

Speaking to the media last Friday, Mr Khamphan Sithidampha said Vientiane provincial authorities had proposed the project to the government for its consideration.

“We are conducting a study on the location of the bridge, to decide whether it should be in Sanakham or Meun district,” Mr Khamphan told reporters from the Vientiane Times, Lao National TV, Lao Phatthana Daily and other media personnel from the capital.

Mr Khamphan, who was appointed as the Governor of Vientiane province two months ago, said provincial authorities had also asked the government to upgrade local border crossings in the province with Loei province, so they become full international crossings.

Mr Khamphan was unable to give a timeframe for the start of construction of the bridge, saying that the Lao and Thai governments were still discussing the matter.

With help from the Australian government, Laos and Thailand completed the construction of the first bridge across the Mekong, linking Vientiane to the neighbouring Thai province of Nong Khai, in 1994. The bridge is a symbol of Laos’ “opening up” policy.

The success of this bridge inspired the Lao and Thai governments to build other bridges linking their countries across the Mekong in the following years.

At present, there are four Lao-Thai bridges spanning the Mekong and an agreement has been signed for the construction of another bridge linking Borikhamxay province with the Thai province of Bueng Kan.

Mr Khamphan said construction of the bridge and the upgrade of border crossings between Vientiane province and Loie province would provide a significant boost for domestic and foreign investment.

He said Vientiane province was an attractive investment destination because of its location, which provides a gateway to neighbouring provinces and to Vientiane, which has huge market potential.

Apart from its strategic location, Vientiane province has a large area of fertile farmland that is suitable for the cultivation of organically farmed rice and vegetables, he said, adding that provincial authorities would support investment in organic farming.

The province is attractive to investors because of its popularity as a tourist destination, with Vangvieng district being a major tourist hotspot thanks to its dramatic karst landscape and scenic river environment, Mr Khamphan said. An official from the Vientiane Planning and Investment Department said provincial authorities were improving mechanisms for investment approval, hoping to encourage more local and foreign businesses to invest in the province.

He said one of the major challenges in improving the business climate is to get local officials to understand that more investment would boost revenue collection as well as job and income generation in the future.