Another Bridge Crossing Mekong To Link China-Bangkok
By D.Arul Rajoo
BANGKOK, June 21 (Bernama) -- A bridge crossing the Mekong River at Chiang Khong in northern Thailand and Houayxay in Laos will be completed in 2011 to connect the south-western province of China directly to Bangkok by road.
Asian Development Bank (ADB) vice-president C. Lawrence Greenwood Jr said that the agreement to build the bridge was reached during the three-day 14th Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Ministerial Conference which ended in Manila today.
He said in a statement that the bridge, to be financed by the governments of China and Thailand, would be the final link in a north-south road system through the Mekong region under development by nations in the area and the ADB for more than a decade.
"When this vital bridge is completed, it will be possible for the first time to travel by land directly from Yunnan, China, through Laos to Thailand, opening up tremendous potential for increased trade, tourism, and further integration of the Mekong region," he said.
The ADB has been the lead supporter of the Greater Mekong Subregion Economic Cooperation Program since it began in 1992 and the area has grown into one of the fastest growing regions in the world, with average gross domestic product growth of about six per cent in recent years.
Exports of the GMS countries quadrupled from US$37 billion in 1992 to US$182 billion in 2006 and annual tourist arrivals more than doubled from 10 million in 1995 to over 22 million in 2006 while foreign direct investment rose from about US$3 billion in 1992 to US$7 billion in 2005.
The ADB said that cooperation among the GMS countries including Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam had enhanced their connectivity, improved their competitiveness and developed a sense of community in the region.
Among the recent accomplishments of the GMS programme are the opening in December 2006 of the Government of Japan-funded Second Mekong International Bridge at the Mukdahan-Savannakhet border between Thailand and Laos, which completes the East-West Economic Corridor, a 1,500km stretch of upgraded roads that cuts across four of the six GMS countries.
Other programmes are the start of work on two ADB-assisted major railway links in Cambodia and Vietnam and the finalisation and signing of all the annexes and protocols of the Agreement for the Facilitation of Cross Border Transport of Goods and People.
In addition, the subregion will soon see the completion of Phase 1 of the Information Superhighway Network consisting of optical fibre backbone connections among the GMS countries, as well as measures to address the region's environmental challenges through a Core Environment Programme.