Building bridges between Laos and Thailand for better lives

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The Second Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge links Mukdahan in Thailand with Savannakhet in Laos.
Photo: Pichayada Promchertchoo

Waking up in one country and shopping in another may sound like the life of a high-flying chief executive, but not for Vannasinh Phrasavath, who does it every time she needs groceries.

In less than 30 minutes, Vannasinh – who goes by the nickname Ko – can drive from her house in western Laos to a fresh market in northeastern Thailand, breezing through two international border checkpoints and crossing the Mekong River.

The journey is painless, thanks to the Second Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge that connects Savannakhet in Laos with Mukdahan in Thailand.

Since its completion in 2006, the border crossing at Savannakhet has become an effortless experience for many local residents. Thousands of people use the bridge to commute between the two countries every day. One of them is Ko, who runs a restaurant nearby.

Like other parts of Laos, her hometown has no direct access to the sea. Still the mother-of-one can easily source fresh seafood for her customers. All she has to do is drive to Thailand.

“It’s not so easy to find fresh seafood here. People sell it at the local market but I want to be able to select the fresh ones myself,” she said. 

However, life hasn’t always been easy for her. Before the bridge was built, crossing to Mukdahan was lengthy and exhausting. The only transportation available then was the ferry. For Ko, every journey meant a long wait for the boat, crammed space with 40-50 passengers, climbing up and down the riverbanks and a public bus ride from the border checkpoint in Thailand.

“It was difficult. There wasn’t so much space on the boat and I had to buy small items only. The ferry operated until 6pm and only ran once an hour,” she explained.

“Each trip used to take me 60 minutes and it was scary crossing the huge river. But now, it’s much more convenient.” 

It is this convenience that has prompted the governments of Thailand and Laos to develop and expand cross-border infrastructure. The US$72 million Second Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge was first tabled in 1995. Its study, design and construction was supported by France and Japan.

Stretching 1.6 kilometres with two traffic lanes, it forms part of the East-West Economic Corridor in the Greater Mekong Sub-region – a 1,320-kilometre route that integrates economic and social developments between Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.

The corridor runs from the seaport of Mawlamyine in Myanmar to Mae Sot and Mukdahan in Thailand. It then continues into Savannakhet and Dansavanh in Laos and Lao Bao, Hue and Dong Ha in Vietnam, before ending in Da Nang on the coast of the South China Sea.

Read full article at Channel NewsAsia:

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