Hordes of tourists have been crossing the Thai-Lao border for shopping and travel, especially in northeastern Nong Khai province, since the two countries eased their Covid-19 measures at the start of this month.
Deputy government spokeswoman Rachada Dhnadirek said on Thursday that many checkpoints are crowded with people and vehicles as the two countries attempt to recover economic activities along the shared border.
She said the checkpoint in Nong Khai now ranks as the fourth most popular entry point to the country after Suvarnabhumi and Phuket airports, and the crossing in Sadao, in southern Songkhla, which borders Malaysia.
Checkpoints have now been reopened to promote tourism and trade on the fourth Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge in Chiang Khong district of Chiang Rai; the third Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge as well as the municipality pier in Nakhon Phanom; and in Ubon Ratchathani's Sirindhorn district.
Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit has asked the Foreign Affairs Ministry to propose to Laos that another five checkpoints be reopened in Chiang Rai.
These include the Ban Suan Dok crossing in Chiang Saen district; the Ban Had Ban checkpoint and Pha Than pier in Chiang Khong district; and the Ban Jaem Pong and Ban Huai Luek checkpoints in Wiang Kaen district.
Transport Co will arrange cross-border transport by bus along eight routes. These are Ubon Ratchathani-Pak Se, Nakhon Panom-Tha Khaek, Mukdahan-Savannakhet, Saphan Thai-Saphan Laos, Bangkok-Vientiane, Loei-Luang Prabang, Nong Khai-Vientiane, and Udon Thani-Vientiane.
Those who are travelling with passports must register as having been vaccinated against Covid-19 on the Thailand Pass mobile application, while those with border passes must carry their vaccination certificates with them in person.
Anyone who encounters problems can contact Transport Co via its call centre at 1490 around the clock.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his Lao counterpart Phankham Viphavanh have deepened the two countries' logistics, rail and road cooperation to create more access to the Chinese market, officials said.
A local source in Nakhon Phanom said the third Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge was fully reopened in May after being closed for two years.
However, other checkpoints in Ban Phaeng district of the province and Pakkading district in Lao's Bolikhamsai province are only permitting the transport of goods, the source added.
Two more checkpoints in the same Thai province, Tha Uthen and That Panom, remain closed, the source said.
Cross-border buses are operating four trips a day departing from the Thai side at 8.30am, 11.30am, 1.30pm and 4.30pm with a fare of 70 baht per person. Travellers must carry their passports, follow health measures and have vaccine certificates.
They can board at the bus terminal in Muang district as well as at the third Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge.