By Souksakhone Vaenkeo
Bolikhamsai, Laos, February 17, 2018
The Lao government has requested Thailand to provide financial support for the construction of the planned fifth Mekong Friendship Bridge, a source has said.
The bridge will link Laos’ central province of Borikhamxay with Thailand’s Bung Kan province.
A feasibility study and the design of the 3,930 million Thai baht (more than 1,038.8 billion kip) project have been completed. Some 2,630 million Thai baht (more than 694.9 billion kip) is needed for construction on the Thai side, while the remaining 1,248 million Thai baht is needed for the project on the Lao side.
“The Lao government submitted a request to Thailand for financial support in December,” a source at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport’s Road Department affiliating with the project told Vientiane Times on Tuesday.
The financial support request was submitted to Thailand’s Neighbouring Countries Economic Development Cooperation Agency (NEDA).
NEDA has extended financial support for a number of infrastructure development projects in Laos in the form of 30-70 grants and low-interest loans.
Thailand also provided grants to fully fund the construction of the third Laos-Thailand Friendship bridge connecting Khammuan province with Thailand’s Nakhon Phanom.
“It depends on the Thai side to consider which form of financial support – the form of a 30 – 70 grant, low-interest loan or full grant,” the source said. “After working with the Thai authorities, a full grant is unlikely.”
Thai authorities in charge plan to propose a budget for 2019 to its government cabinet to carry out the construction of the project, Thailand’s Khaosod reported, citing the Department of Highway of Thailand. If things go as planned and funds are secured, construction of the project could commence in 2019. It would take three years to complete the project, the Lao source said.
An additional more than three billion kip will be sourced to compensate landowners and remove barriers on the Lao side to enable the construction of the bridge and checkpoint to take place. The area needed for the project is currently farmland thus minimising impacts, according to the source.
The 1,350-metre long bridge will be built 10 km north of Pakxan – the capital of Borikhamxay province and about 2.5km from Road No.13 South. It is envisaged that the bridge will be a vital transport route to boost trade and investment between Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.
From Thailand’s Bung Kan province, vehicles will travel a distance of about 150km to Nge An province in Vietnam via Lao national highway No. 8 in Borikhamxay province, Deputy Director of the Borikhamxay provincial Department of Public Works and Transport, Mr Thone Chanthaminavong said previously. In NgeAn the route then links to Hanoi, Danang and other provinces in Vietnam.
The new bridge will also open up Laos’ northern provinces of Xieng Khuang and Huaphan to tourists from Thailand. The bridge comprises walkways and four lanes 3.5 metres in width.
It was estimated that as many as 855 vehicles would commute daily on the bridge according to calculations based on 2017 information. Numbers were estimated to increase every year, according to Thai daily Khaosod.
Such vehicle numbers would be worth the investment, it reported. Four Laos-Thailand Mekong Friendship Bridges have been built so far. The first connects Vientiane to Thailand’s Nong Khai province and the second connects Savannakhet province to Mukdahan province in Thailand.
The third bridge connects Khammuan province with Thailand’s Nakhon Phanom, and the fourth links Bokeo province in the north of Laos with Chiang Rai province.