“Laos is a neighbouring country that is of primary importance to Thailand. Lao-Thai people are like family and close relatives and friends who have a strong, long-lasting relationship,” Srettha Thavisin, Thailand’s Prime Minister, posted the message about visiting Laos on the weekend.
He paid an official visit to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) on October 29 at the invitation of Sonexay Siphandone, Prime Minister of the Lao PDR.
Beside having a discussion with the Sonexay, PM Srettha also met Thongloun Sisoulith, President of the Lao PDR and General Secretary of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party, and Xaysompone Phomvihane, President of the National Assembly of the Lao PDR.
The official visit reflected the special relationship between Thailand and the Lao PDR as neighbours that enjoy cultural similarities and close bonds at the people level. The visit also emphasized the importance of the Strategic Partnership for Growth and Sustainable Development between the two countries.
Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to working closely to advance their bilateral cooperation in all dimensions. There would be regular exchange of high-level visits between the two countries, and both sides will strengthen cooperation in security, economic, development, and people aspects.
On economic cooperation, they will strive to achieve the bilateral trade target of 11 billion US dollars by 2025 through various measures, such as better trade facilitation, expansion of cross-border networks of SMEs, and promotion of economic activities between border provinces of both countries.
Both sides agreed to expedite the process to start the construction of a new railway bridge over Mekong River at Nong Khai – Vientiane border crossing as early as possible by 2026 to support the cross-border rail freight growth between Thailand – Laos – China.
During this visit, the two Prime Ministers presided over the opening ceremony of the Vientiane Train Station (Khamsavath), which is a cooperation project between the two Governments, through Thailand’s Neighbouring Countries Economic Development Cooperation Agency (NEDA), to better connect the two countries’ rail systems.
The inaugural train service from Nong Khai station to the newly built Vientiane (Khamsavath) Station in inner Vientiane will start in 2024 to promote more cross-border tourism.
They were also pleased with the progress of the construction of the 5th Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge (Bueng Kan – Bolikhamxai), which is now almost 90 percent completed. The construction is expected to be completed and the bridge will be opened in the near future.
According to Thai foreign ministry, Thai and Laos looked forward to more projects in the pipeline to enhance better connectivity between the two countries and the region, including the construction of the 6th Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge (Ubon Ratchathani – Salavan) and the improvement of the National Road No. 12 (R12) from Thai – Lao border at Nakhon Phanom – Thakek to Lao – Viet Nam border at Na Phao – Cha Lo.
On transportation and logistics, both sides will work together to increase the efficiency of road and rail transshipment to boost bilateral and regional trade. Both sides will also expedite the establishment of Common Control Areas (CCA) to reduce customs procedures for cross-border transportation at the 2nd Thai – Lao Friendship Bridge (Mukdahan – Savannakhet), which is a major transport route between Thailand – Laos –Viet Nam.
On tourism, both sides will conclude a Joint Plan of Action to promote cross-border tourism and make joint activities to attract tourists, in conjunction with the 2024 Visit Laos Year.
Security agencies of the two countries will cooperate closely to maintain peace and stability along the border, and effectively tackle transnational crimes, especially drug trafficking and online scams. The updated Agreement on Cooperation in Border Security between Thailand and the Lao PDR is scheduled to be signed by the end of this year.
Both leaders agreed to work even more closely on the issue of transboundary haze, and tasked their relevant agencies to conclude the trilateral Joint Plan of Action – CLEAR Sky Strategy between Thailand, Lao PDR and Myanmar by the end of this year. Thailand will support the development of Lao PDR’s fire risk map and capacity building programmes on the control of forest fire and crop burning.
After their bilateral discussion, the two Prime Ministers presided over the handover ceremonies and witnessed the signing of documents as follows:
(1) Handover of the Learning Centre for the Development of Sustainable Agriculture based on the Application of Sufficiency Economy Philosophy at the Attapeu Integrated Vocational Education and Technical School;
(2) Handover of the Friendship Arboretum in Commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of Thai – Lao Diplomatic Relations;
(3) Signing of the Memorandum of Understanding on Cultural Exchange between the Ministry of Culture of Thailand and the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism of the Lao PDR; and
(4) Signing of the Record of Discussion between NEDA and the Lao National Railway for Technical Assistance for Capacity Building for Locomotive Driving and Ticketing System and Development of a Business Model for the Lao National Railway.