Thailand, Laos eye closer ties with new bridge

Thailand and Laos on Friday officially opened a new 1.4-kilometre (0.9 miles) long bridge across the Mekong River as part of a regional highway project.

The crossing, linking Thailand's northeastern province of Nakhon Phanom with Khammouan in Laos, is the third "friendship bridge" between the kingdom and its land-locked neighbour, one of Asia's poorest nations.

The 1.7 billion baht ($55 million) bridge was declared open at the auspicious time of 11.11 am on November 11, 2011.

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said at a ceremony that the new link -- part of the UN-backed "Asian Highway" project which aims to develop regional transport -- would boost ties between the two countries.

"It will enhance trade between Thailand, Laos and Vietnam while strengthening relations among their people," she said.

Laos, with about six million people, has been growing at about seven percent annually in recent years, its government says, and it is aiming for membership of the World Trade Organization.

AFP

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