July 31, 2017
The East-West Economic Corridor runs through the center of Mainland Southeast Asia. It increases the connectivity of the land of multiple ASEAN countries with a single road running from Da Nang, Vietnam, in the east, through Laos and Thailand and to Mawlamyaing, Myanmar, to the west.
The 1,600 meter long Second Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge spans the Mekong River, which threads its way through the border between Laos and Thailand, within the corridor. The bridge was built with assistance from JICA by the ODA loan.
It has been 10 years since it opened in December 2006. Not only does it contribute to the quick, efficient movement of people and goods between the two countries, it also adds to economic development in the area around the corridor. As part of this, Japanese companies have opened factories one after another in landlocked Laos.
The Second Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge is lighted by the setting sun. Photo by Shinichi Kuno of JICA
The Second Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge (2015)
To understand the state of traffic on the Second Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge, JICA did a traffic volume survey in 2015. Compared with a 2009 survey, daily traffic had increased from 256 vehicles to 1,947 by 2015, an eightfold increase.
Excluding emigration and immigration procedures, it takes about five minutes to cross the bridge itself. Whereas companies that transport sugar from Thailand to Laos used to take two days to do it by ferry, they say they now can deliver it within a single day and have realized a 20 percent reduction in transportation costs.
At Laotian cultural asset Ingham temple, it is said that entrance fees paid by increasing numbers of tourists are put toward maintenance. Photo by Shinichi Kuno of JICA
What is increasing, however, is the number of tourists. Not only is tourism being spurred on both sides of the bridge, for residents on the Laotian side, in particular, opportunities to receive social services that go beyond national boundaries are increasing. There are more substantial services and facilities like universities and vocational schools in the town of Mukdahan on the Thai side. The bridge has made it possible for people in Laos to attend school and live in a dormitory there, crossing the bridge to go home on days off. It has also made it possible to transport emergency patients at night. In these and other ways, it is contributing to a better life for residents.
Japanese companies also have moved to better connect the land of Laos and Thailand in recent years.
The first special economic zone in Laos was completed in Savannakhet in 2003. Some 10 years later, Toyota Boshoku, Aderans, Nikon and other companies are starting up factories one after another. The completion of JICA's 2003 Project for Improvement of the National Road Route 9 and the opening of the Second Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge three years later provided an opportunity for provincial cities in the landlocked country of Laos to shine as bases for manufacturing and distribution.
There was damage on the road to the bridge including surface deformation and cracking from undulation
A new route will be created in the near future in the western part of the East-West Economic Corridor as well. In October 2015, JICA concluded a Japanese ODA loan contract with the government of Myanmar. The plan is to rebuild three bridges that restrict the passage of heavy vehicles. The Asian Development Bank and the Thai government have also teamed up with JICA to make improvements to the same route, and it is projected that the time it will take to go by car between Bangkok and Yangon will be reduced from 3.5 days to 1.9.
With the launch of the ASEAN community at the end of 2015, the movement of people and goods has accelerated in ASEAN countries. JICA will continue supporting improvement of the corridor with the aim of achieving high-quality growth.