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Bridging borders

Construction has begun of the second Thai-Burma bridge across the Moei River, linking Mae Sot District in Thailand’s Tak Province and the town of Myawaddy in Burma.

Mae Sot mayor Terdkiat Shinsoranant on Wednesday led a sub-committee of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA)  to the construction site, where the Department of Highways has started the work.

Tak governor Somchai Hathayatanti said that Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, Transport Minister Prajin Juntong, Commerce Minister Chatchai Sarikulya and a delegation of the NLA would inspect the site and an area to be developed into a special border economic zone, from 23 to 29 January.

On the Thai side, the new bridge will begin at Ban Wang Takhian Tai village in Tha Sai Luad sub-district of Mae Sot District. The four-lane bridge, to cost 3.6 billion baht (US$110 million), will serve the special economic area and be part of an east-west economic corridor stretching about 700 kilometres from Tak to Mukdahan Province on the border with Laos in the northeast.

The construction of the new bridge is expected to be completed in three years at the soonest, and to relieve congestion on the first and two-lane Mae Sot-Myawaddy bridge that cannot serve heavy trucks.

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Local businessmen said the second bridge would probably double the value of border trade through Mae Sot from the 30 billion to 60 billion baht a year. The bridge and its approaches would be about 21 km long, with a 17-km section on the Thai side.

The Thai government plans special economic areas in Mae Sot, Phop Phra and Mae Ramat districts of Tak.

Mae Sot-Myawaddy trade serves local business as well as Bangkok and other provinces in the north, and Burmese traders from Rangoon, 450 km from Mae Sot, and as a distribution centre for cargo in Burma.

At the beginning of this year the opening hours of the Mae Sot-Myawaddy checkpoint were extended by three hours to 5.30am to 8.30pm.

Burma’s recent push for political and economic reforms has significantly boosted the trade volumes at the Mae Sot crossing.  In 2001, cross-border trade volume stood at 22 billion baht. Trade increased to 39 billion baht in 2012 and to 46 billion baht last year.

This article was originally published in the Bangkok Post on 21 January 2015.

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