A caravan of cars from Xishuangbanna, or Sipsongpanna, in China has traveled to Thailand via Road 3 Asia (R3A) to join the celebration of the opening of the Fourth Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge.
The caravan, comprising 46 cars and 183 people, is visiting Chiang Mai, Lampang, and Sukhothai from 12 to 17 December 2013. It is the first Chinese caravan to visit Thailand after the Fourth Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge was officially inaugurated on 11 December 2013. Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and Vice President of the Lao PDR Bounnhang Vorachit presided over the opening ceremony.
The new bridge links Chiang Khong district of Chiang Rai in northern Thailand with Houayxay of Bokeo province in Laos. It forms part of economic development under the North-South Economic Corridor, connecting Thailand and Laos with southern China.
The 1.2-kilometer bridge was constructed by Thai, Lao, and Chinese governments at a cost of 48.96 million US dollars, or about 1.57 billion baht. It serves as a cross-border transportation and trade network between Thailand, Laos, and other countries in the region, especially in the Greater Mekong Subregion. Construction of this bridge began in 2010.
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. The Second Friendship Bridge, linking Mukdahan, also in northeastern Thailand, with the central Lao province of Savannakhet, was opened on 20 December 2006. The Third Friendship Bridge, linking the northeastern province of Nakhon Phanom in Thailand with Khammouan province in central Laos, was opened on 11 November 2011.
The Fourth Friendship Bridge, which was opened on11 December 2013 will help boost tourism in this region. The number of Thai tourists visiting Bokeo province is likely to double following the opening of the bridge.
The bridge is also expected to help develop Chiang Rai as a major economic center in northern Thailand. Chiang Rai shares borders with Myanmar, Laos, and southern China, and its border trade with neighboring countries has been conducted mainly through the Mekong River and Road R3A, which links China (Kunming), Laos, and Thailand.
All the bridges will facilitate the cross-border movement of goods and people and help promote productive relations between Thailand and neighboring countries. As for Road R3A, it was constructed in 1995 as part of the Economic Quadrangle, comprising Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, and southern China. This road has been open for traffic since March 2008 and has become an important transportation route in this region.