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Laos, Thailand keen to open border, up connectivity

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The 22nd Lao-Thai Joint Commission meeting was held in Bangkok last week. VIENTIANE TIMES

Laos, Thailand keen to open border, up connectivity

Laos and Thailand have agreed to set up a working committee to further discuss details and regulations concerning the reopening of their shared land border.

The two ASEAN nations also agreed to push for infrastructure development to support connectivity and boost economic cooperation in the Mekong region. The agreement was reached at the 22nd Lao-Thai Joint Commission meeting held in Bangkok last week.

Co-chaired by Lao foreign minister Saleumxay Kommasith and his Thai counterpart Don Pramudwinai, the meeting took place under the theme “Towards a Resilient and Sustainable Recovery”.

Thai Department of East Asian Affairs director-general Arjaree Sriratanaban, was quoted in the Bangkok Post as saying: “At the initial stage, it would be a one-day trip at the border crossing between Nong Khai, Udon Thani and Vientiane in Laos.”

She said this would help stimulate cross-border trade and boost economic recovery between Laos and Thailand, adding that the two sides will later announce when this border crossing will reopen.

Thailand has already opened its borders to vaccinated foreign nationals, including from Laos, who can now enter the country without having to spend time in quarantine. The decision was made as part of efforts to revive Thailand’s economy, which has been dealt a heavy blow by the pandemic.

Laos has yet to set a date for the return of vaccinated foreign tourists and business operators, but the government is keen to reopen its borders step by step to revitalise the shattered economy. Reopening may be possible in certain areas, but all of the standard Covid-19 guidelines must be fully enforced.

During the 22nd Lao-Thai Joint Commission meeting, leaders agreed to facilitate the construction of various infrastructure projects including the fifth Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge connecting Bueng Kan in Thailand with Borikhamxay province in Laos and the sixth Friendship Bridge connecting Ubon Ratchathani in Thailand with Laos’ Saravan province, according to Lao National Radio.

The two sides also discussed construction of Phase II of the Laos-Thailand railway, whose 7.5km extension is expected to be completed within this year.

Thailand also agreed to revise the memorandum of understanding on the purchase of electricity from Laos and support for Laos’ ambition to export power to Singapore via networks in Thailand and Malaysia.

During the meeting, Saleumxay attended the handover ceremony of a drug treatment and rehabilitation centre and a building to house road accident victims in Vientiane province. Construction of this facility is financed by Thailand with more than 50 million baht ($1.5 million).

Thailand also donated medical equipment worth two million baht for use at the Children’s Hospital in Vientiane in response to Covid-19.

VIENTIANE TIMES/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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