Nong Khai province in northeastern Thailand, the Lao capital of Vientiane, and Australia are organizing jointly an event to celebrate the 20 years of the First Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge. Nong Khai Governor Wirat Limsuwat has invited people to join the celebration, held at Hat Chom Manee in the area of the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge in Nong Khai province from 4 to 8 April 2014.
Among the activities are a spectacular light and sound presentation, fireworks displays, and water curtain performances, as well as cultural shows from three countries – Thailand, Lao PDR, and Australia. Throughout the five-day event, there are also trade fairs of products from Thailand, Lao PDR, Australia, China, and Vietnam at the ceremonial park in front of Nong Khai’s old City Hall building.
In addition, there are two other opening ceremonies to mark the Thai-Lao relations, including a photo exhibition titled “Nong Khai – Vientiane: 100 Years of Relations” and the opening of a garden in celebration of the 60th year of Thai-Lao diplomatic relations.
Thailand and Laos officially opened the First Friendship Bridge, linking Nong Khai in northeastern Thailand with the Lao capital of Vientiane, on 8 April 1994. Their Majesties the King and Queen, Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, Lao President Nouhak Phoumsavan, and three ministers of Thailand, Laos, and Australia were present at the inauguration ceremony of the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge across the Mekong River.
The bridge was funded by the Australian government. It was the first to have been built across the 4,200-kilometer-long Mekong River. With a length of 1,170 meters, the bridge has two 3.5-meter-wide vehicle lanes, and two 1.5-meter-wide footpaths. Fifteen columns provide support along the edges of both halves of the bridge, eight on the Thai side and seven on the Lao side.
The bridge has been cited by Thailand and Lao PDR as a symbol of friendship. Thailand stated that the bridge symbolized the fraternity between Thailand, Laos, and Australia and that it also signified a new dimension of cooperation in Southeast Asia, which would lead to enduring common prosperity.
Since its opening, the Friendship Bridge has brought about benefits to the two neighboring countries in terms of their economies, trade, tourism, investment, cultural exchanges, transportation, and logistics. The bridge not only connects the two nations physically, it also brings together the Thai and Lao people, enhancing people-to-people contact.
There are currently four Thai-Lao friendship bridges. The Second Friendship Bridge connects Mukdahan in Thailand with Savannakhet in Laos. The third one links Nakhon Phanom in Thailand with Khammouan province in Laos. The fourth bridge links Chiang Khong district of Chiang Rai in northern Thailand with Houayxay in Bokeo province in Laos.