Lao PDR and Myanmar open bridge

LUANG NAMTHA, 12 May 2015: The first ever Laos-Myanmar Friendship Bridge linking northern Laos with Myanmar across the Mekong River was officially opened last Saturday by Lao PDR President, Choummaly Sayasone and his Myanmar counterpart, Thein Sein, the Lao News Agency reported.

The Laos-Myanmar Friendship Bridge is located between Houay Koum village, approximately 13-km north from Xiangkok village, Long district, Luang Namtha province of the Lao PDR, and Kenglap, Thachilek district, Shan State of Myanmar.

The bridge, which is 691.6 metres long and 10.9 metres wide, was funded through a joint investment by the Lao and Myanmar governments with each side financing half of the cost.

It took 30 months to construct the USD26 million bridge and was completed five months ahead of schedule.

inside no 2The two-lane bridge with 1.2-metre-wide sidewalks, was designed for vehicles with a maximum gross weight of 75 tonnes and can withstand earthquakes up to 7 on the Richter scale. Its height allow ships of less than 500 tonnes to pass underneath.

The governments of Laos and Myanmar reached an agreement on building the bridge during an official goodwill visit to the Lao PDR by Myanmar President Thein Sein in March 2012. A groundbreaking ceremony for the project was held in February 2013.

It links National Road 17 in Laos to National Road 4 in Myanmar, and should help to promote trade and tourism.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Thongloun Sisoulith, said: “This is the first bridge connecting Laos and Myanmar and also the only international bridge built by Lao and Myanmar.”

Four international Mekong bridges that link Thailand and Laos supported a remarkable increase in trade volume and tourism between the two countries. They  link  the following cities: Vientiane-Nong Khai; Savannakhet-Mukdahan; Khammouan-Nakhon Phanom; and Chaing Rai’s Chiang Khong-Bokeo’s Hauy Xai.


  1. This bridge won’t be anything but a white elephant project if 1) only locals from Laos and Myanmar can cross, and in saying that would mean they will only be allowed to travel within a restricted radius from the border as all locals only crossings restrict travel to within a limited distance from the border. 2) even if the crossing is opened as an international crossing, will cars from either country or third countries be allowed across? If so, will they be allowed to travel further than just the border town on the other side of the border? Knowing Myanmar restrictions on the entry of foreign registered vehicles, I’d say the answer to that question is almost certainly no. 3) When will the Kengtung-Taunggyi road open to foreigners? Because as long as it’s a restricted road, this bridge will not allow full overland access between Laos and Myanmar as it is intended. It would require a traveller to fly from either Tachilek or Kengtung to the interior of Myanmar (say Inle, Mandalay or Heho) before further overland travel is permitted as is the case with travellers coming across from Mae Sai/Tachilek.

    So unless someone can answer the most important questions:

    Can foreigners cross this bridge right now?
    Can cars cross?
    When will foreigners be allowed to travel across the Kengtung-Taunggyi highway (route 4)?

    Then this bridge will be all but useless. It’s a good start, but I think Myanmar has a long way to go towards opening up it’s country and economy. There are just too many restrictions even now and this bridge, while a good start won’t realise it’s full potential unless these restrictions are removed.

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