Isan Economic Corridor requested by private sector

Isan Economic Corridor requested by private sector

A boy looks at Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge, which crosses the Mekong River, connecting Mukdahan province in Thailand with Savannakhet in Laos. PATIPAT JANTHONG
A boy looks at Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge, which crosses the Mekong River, connecting Mukdahan province in Thailand with Savannakhet in Laos. PATIPAT JANTHONG

On the heels of the much-touted Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), the private sector in the upper Northeast is proposing the government establish the Isan Economic Corridor (IEC) scheme.

Swat Teerattananukulchai, chairman of the Udon Thani Chamber of Commerce, said the private sector in the upper northeastern provinces is keen for the IEC providing links to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

The upper northeast covers Udon Thani, Bung Kan, Nong Bua Lam Phu, Nong Khai and Loei.

Mr Swat said a recent meeting of the private sector came to the agreement that the upper northeastern region is has potential for development, especially cultural tourism, including a silk route, agricultural tourism, and tourism along the Mekong River, which has rich natural resources.

The region boasts of many unique communities and renowned Buddhist monasteries.

He said the development of better hospitals and other medical services such as spas will attract visitors from Laos and Vietnam.

Future infrastructure development plans in the upper Northeast, once completed, are also expected to facilitate transport in the region over the next five years.

Mr Swat said by early next year, a meeting of the joint public-private sector and civil society will be held to allow all sectors to propose ideas to develop the upper Northeast. The conclusion will be later proposed to the National Economic and Social Development Board, the government's planning unit.

The mobile cabinet held in Nong Khai last week approved the development of infrastructure worth 7 billion baht over the next four years (2019-22) to facilitate transport in the five provinces of the upper northeastern region.

The projects include four-lane road construction, the 139-kilometre bypass construction for Udon Thani and Bung Kan, the upgrade of Udon Thani airport, and port construction along Mekong River in order to support marine tourism between Thailand and Laos.

Udon Thani airport is being upgraded to serve 7.5 million passengers in 2022, up from 3.5 million.

The private sector in Udon Thani is developing an industrial estate on 2,000 rai with a total investment of 4 billion baht.

The industrial estate is expected to be operational in 2021. The project is about 60% complete.

Three more Thai-Lao friendship bridges will be built to facilitate tourism and transport.

A plan is afoot in Thailand to build the fifth Thai-Laos friendship bridge across Mekong River at Bung Kan and Pakxan, Bolikhamsay province. The bridge is expected to be complete in three years.

The 1.6km-long bridge is worth 3.93 billion baht. Once completed, the bridge will serve as a major transport route that links Thailand with several cities in Vietnam.

The bridge would shorted the drive from Bung Kan to Nghe An province in Vietnam via Laos National Highway No.8 through Bolikhamsay to 150km. In Nghe An, the route can link up with roads to Hanoi, Da Nang and other cities in Vietnam.

In addition, the new bridge will facilitate Thais to visit the northern provinces of Laos.

Thailand's Transport Ministry is conducting a feasibility study to build the sixth friendship bridge at Ubon Ratchathani and Salavan in Laos, worth 4.36 billion baht. The Royal Highway Department has already completed the design. Once the two countries agree on a proposal, the bridge is expected to take three years for construction.

The Thai government has also already agreed to conduct a feasibility study on the seventh Thai-Laos bridge, which is planned to connect Loei to Vientiane in Cambodia.

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