Rail link to boost Lao, Thai economies

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) – The frequency of Lao and Thai people visiting each other’s country will increase, and so will the growth of trade and cooperation in product development.

Khon Kaen Governor Dr Somsak Changtragul said he is sure that will happen once the Laos-China railway is complete. The railway will play a significant role in linking the two countries that will, in turn, translate as big investments for both.

“The time taken to transport goods will be less, especially agricultural produce and related health products,” Somsak said in an interview in Khon Kaen province, Thailand.

The rail link will facilitate people’s travel and it will take much less time which lower the price of goods.

 “I am sure that will benefit the two countries’ people and their relations will become better and stronger,” Somsak said.

Thai people visit a booth displaying hand-made Lao textiles at a fair in Thailand. – VIENTIANE TIMES/ANN

Khon Kaen is a modern trade and medical centre and with the advent of the high speed rail link, more people from Laos will be able to trade and invest in Khon Kaen.

Somsak said he used to see a lot of goods declaration sheets ordering Thai goods from Khon Kaen to Champassak and Attapeu provinces in Laos. Once the rail link is complete, Khon Kaen can be a centre that will link the south of Thailand from east to west.

“In due time, goods from Laos can be transported via Khon Kaen to the east, north and south of Thailand. Lao products can pass through or via Thailand to reach Myanmar and India,” Somsak said.

Associate Professor Dr Prapansak Chaveerach, Director of the Bureau of Academic Administration and Development, Khon Kaen University, said cooperation between Laos and Khon Kaen is increasing, including in education, economy and tourism.

“Many graduate students from Khon Kaen University (KKU) are opening businesses in Laos. We also have a health assistance cooperation project in Laos,” Prapansak said.

“In the education sector, Lao students (over 100) rank third among foreign students studying at KKU. Top of the list is China, followed by the US.”

Lao and Thai technical officials have worked together in connecting the high-speed train system that is being built to facilitate the link between the Lao and Thai systems.

The railway is a part of the planned regional rail network linking China’s Yunnan province and its capital Kunming to Singapore via Laos, Thailand and Malaysia.

Officials from the two countries discussed measures to increase bilateral trade to USD10 billion by 2021, according to a recent Lao and Thai trade meeting.

The Ministry of Industry and Commerce stated that the trade value between Thailand and Laos was more than USD4.6 billion in 2016. It rose about USD5.3 billion in 2017, and was over USD4.4 billion in the first 10 months of last year.

Among the key goods imported by Laos from Thailand are processed oil, automobiles and parts, steel and steel products, livestock, chemicals, cosmetics, soap and acne treatment products, machinery and parts, fresh and frozen poultry, and plastic products.