VIENTIANE (XINHUA) - Work on a fifth bridge linking Laos and Thailand across the Mekong River has begun after a construction agreement was signed in December.
The bridge, which will take 36 months to build, will connect Bolikhamxay province in Laos to Thailand's north-eastern province of Bueng Kan.
Local daily Vientiane Times on Wednesday (Jan 6) quoted project director Laythong Phommavong as saying that work is currently centred on the site where the bridge and immigration facilities will be built.
"We are clearing land on a 50ha area prior to starting construction and this work is now 80 per cent complete," he said.
The total cost of construction is estimated to be US$130.3 million (S$171.6 million), of which Laos will be responsible for some US$46.13 million.
Laos' construction costs will be financed by Thailand's Neighbouring Countries Economic Development Cooperation Agency through the provision of loans.
When the bridge is completed in 2023, it will enable Bolikhamxay to become another regional trade hub and transit route for Laos, Thailand and Vietnam over a distance of just 150km. It will be the shortest connecting route among the three countries, said the report.
The bridge is part of the Greater Mekong Sub-region and Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS) initiative among Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand.
Mr Laythong said Laos stands to benefit from transit services as well as attract more trade and investment.
Laos also has the potential to benefit from an increase in tourism after the bridge is built but authorities need to provide more facilities and improve services to meet the needs of visitors, according to the report.
There are currently four bridges linking Laos and Thailand across the Mekong River. The first connects Lao capital 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.