11 July 2024

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin knows the importance of neighbouring Laos, so he did not miss any opportunity to reaffirm the strength of multifaceted cooperation during his visit last week. Srettha has been busy since he assumed the premiership two months ago, travelling the world to attract more foreign investment to the country, which will also benefit the regional economy in the post-pandemic era.

There were two key areas, infrastructure and connectivity, on which Srettha and his Lao counterpart Sonexay Siphandone met eye to eye. Thailand has pledged to continue its partnership with Laos in building more bridges, roads and railways.

During his visit, Srettha also officially opened a train station in Vientiane, which will link the Lao capital to Nong Khai in Thailand’s northeast. The station is part of the Thai-Lao Railway Construction Project. Thailand’s Neighbouring Countะ้ries Economic Development Cooperation Agency (NEDA) has been handling the project, using low-interest loans and grants worth about 650 million baht. Other infrastructure projects include the construction of National Road No. 11 and the 5th Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge.

According to the Thai spokesperson, Chai Wacharonke, Laos is very important for Thailand as Thai exports are highly dependent on land connectivity between Laos and China, as well as Vietnam.

He pointed out that Thailand and Laos will work together to increase the volume of bilateral trade to US$11 billion in the next two years, noting that Thailand is ready to support economic activity between the two countries and turn Laos and north-eastern Thailand into a “growth area”.

Srettha’s visit served as a building block for Thai-Lao relations, which are celebrating the 72nd year of their diplomatic relations. Thailand continues to accelerate the construction of railways linking the two countries. Now that Laos has a high-speed train service to and from China, both countries agreed to accelerate and expand their transport connectivity. Apart from the fifth friendship bridge, Thailand has already committed to building a sixth in Ubon Ratchathani and Salavan.

Thailand expressed its readiness to provide continued support for Laos’ ASEAN chairmanship next year. During the ASEAN summit on September 7th, Indonesia handed over chair to Laos. The incoming chair has already adopted the theme “ASEAN: Enhancing Connectivity and Resiliency”. Other priorities will include strengthening the ASEAN community and creating opportunities to face geopolitical and geo-economic challenges and changes.

Chai reiterated, in an interview, that both countries are considered strong strategic partners for growth and sustainable development. As such, in coming years, there will be more cooperation between the two countries in additional areas, such as the digital economy, start-ups and a greater flow of investment, especially on projects that create local employment and are environmental friendly.

Kavi Chongkittavorn