Laos and Myanmar will begin building a friendship bridge across the Mekong River next month, providing the first road link between the two neighbouring countries with the aim of boosting trade, investment and travel in the region. Minister of Public Works and Transport Mr Sommad Pholsena led a Lao delegation to Myanmar for talks on January 8-10 to discuss the bridge construction project with Myanmar officials.
It was decided that a ground-breaking ceremony for the bridge will take place next month, linking the Xiengkok river port in Luang Namtha province in Laos with Kainglap in Myanmar. The bridge will be 660 metres in length and 9 metres wide excluding sidewalks, but it is unclear how much the project will cost or when it will be completed as the bidding process is yet to be concluded.
During bilateral talks which took place on January 9, the two sides discussed and agreed upon various technical aspects of the bridge. The Lao border with Myanmar is defined by the Mekong River, which flows from southern China to the Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam. The two countries established diplomatic ties in July, 1955, but the volume of trade between Laos and Myanmar is small compared to that with Laos’ other neighbours.
The leaders of the two countries agreed that the bridge will help to boost the volume of commodity flows between Laos and Myanmar and facilitate business and tourism activities in the area. In fact, the leaders of Laos and Myanmar have been planning a friendship bridge for a decade or so , to allow their peoples to trade and make visits. The project became more realistic when Lao Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong visited Myanmar in 2011 to discuss the bridge and improved road connectivity between the two countries.
The long awaited construction agreement between the two governments was signed early last year. During his visit to Myanmar, Mr Sommad called on Myanmar’s President U Thein Sein to further their cooperative and good neighbourly relations. The Lao minister thanked the Myanmar president for his warm welcome and for his advice regarding the construction of the friendship bridge.
Mr Sommad also informed the president about the outcome of the bilateral talks which agreed to set the date of the ground-breaking ceremony for next month, to mark the start of construction. It is envisaged that the bridge will not only boost trade and investment but will also lead to mutual understanding between the peoples of Laos and Myanmar, which will enhance cooperation in the years to come.
Vientiane Times, Vientiane Mai
January 14, 2013