The Irrawaddy News Magazine [Covering Burma and Southeast Asia]

Burma and Laos Agree Friendship Bridge Deal
Friday, March 23, 2012

Burma and Laos have signed a deal to build a friendship bridge spanning the Mekong River amongst a raft of measures to deepen trade and cooperation between the two nations.

Burmese President Thein Sein witnessed the deal on Thursday when he arrived in Laos capital Vientiane for a two-day visit at the bequest of his Laos counterpart Choummaly Sayasone.

The two presidents also agreed to reopen direct flights between Vientiane and either Rangoon or Naypyidaw in order to mutually boost tourism.

“Importantly, both sides should push towards realizing the construction of the friendship bridge,” the Laos president was quoted by the Vientiane Times.

“We are confident that the government and people of Burma will be able to overcome any difficulties and reach their desired destination.”

The friendship bridge agreement was signed by Burmese Minister of Construction Khin Maung Myint and Laos Minister of Public Works and Transport Sommad Pholsena. It is due to be constructed between Xiengkok in Luang Namtha Province, Laos, and Kainglap in Burma.

Industrial sectors which both nations already have considerable interests—such as agriculture and mining—are also understood to have been discussed at the meeting.

Both nations also agreed to cooperate further on border security and joint development along the Mekong River.

China, Laos, Burma and Thailand have been working together for joint patrols, intelligence sharing and armed escorts along the waterway in recent months after 13 Chinese crewmen were killed in a pirate attack last year.

Thein Sein also responded positively to Choummaly's proposal that Burma should join the Mekong River Commission as a permanent member, according to reports.

Laos is preparing to host the ninth Asean Summit in Vientiane this November with Burma about to assume the bloc chair in 2014.

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