State Counselor, Thai Prime Minister Open 2nd Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge
On Tuesday, the State Counselor and Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha opened a new bridge linking Mae Sot district in Thailand’s Tak province with Myanmar’s border city of Myawaddy. A second Mae Sot Boundary Post was also opened alongside the bridge.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said the bridge would promote cross-border trade, investment, tourism and cultural exchange.
Bilateral trade between Myanmar and Thailand stood at US$5 billion (7.7 trillion kyats) in fiscal 2017-2018, $4.3 billion in 2016-17, $4.8 billion in 2015-16, $5.7 billion in 2014-15, $5.6 billion in 2013-14, $4.7 billion in 2012-13, and $4.5 billion in 2011-12, according to the Ministry of Commerce. Thailand is Myanmar’s third-biggest source of foreign investment.
The bridge lies on the East-West Economic Corridor, part of the Mekong-Japan cooperation scheme, Tokyo’s grand infrastructure plan for the region. Within this plan, Myanmar sits on two major economic corridors: the East-West Economic Corridor connecting Vietnam’s Dong Ha City with Yangon’s Thilawa Special Economic Zone (SEZ) via Cambodia and Thailand, and the Southern Economic Corridor connecting central Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand to the Dawei SEZ in southeastern Myanmar.
The plan aims to improve connectivity between Bangkok and Yangon along the East-West Corridor. The corridor will help businesses based in Bangkok extend their supply chains to Yangon (at the Thilawa SEZ). The Myanmar section of the East-West Corridor does not yet function as an international highway due to bottlenecks such as one-way stretches, a lack of paved roads, traffic difficulties in the rainy season and weight limitations.
According to the Japan International Cooperation Agency, Tokyo plans to shorten transport time by constructing three bridges in Karen and Mon states—the Gyaing-Kawkareik Bridge, the Gyaing-Zathabyin Bridge and the Atran Bridge—as part of the East-West Economic Corridor. These are expected to reduce the time needed to transport goods the 870 km from Thilawa to Bangkok to one-and-a-half days.
Source: The Irrawaddy