Lao authorities believe that the development of communication link with China and Thailand via Route 3 will benefit Laos more than its two neighbors.
Laos' deputy Prime Minister Somsavat Lengsavad says even though the value of trade between Thailand and China, conducted via Route 3, might be more than that between Laos and China, but per capita trade value for Laos will certainly be more because of Laos' smaller population.
Route 3, which stretches from China's Yunnan province to Thailand's northern province of Chiangrai via Laos' Bokeo and Luangnamtha provinces, is about 90% completed and expected to begin operation by mid-2008. Once in operation, the highway will cut travel time from Kunming to northern Laos and Thailand from 40 hours to 12.
Part of the 228 kilometer-long highway will run through a 4th bridge over the Mekong River linking Laos and Thailand. The Chinese and Thai governments have agreed to split half and half the cost of building the bridge, estimated to be around 2 billion bahts. The bridge is expected to be completed in 2012.
Thailand's cabinet has also approved construction of a third bridge over the Mekong River connecting Nakhon Phanom province and the town of Khammouane in central Laos. Construction cost is estimated at 1.5 bilion Bahts, and completion is also expected in 2012.
Listen to our Laos Today report for more details.