The newly built Myanmar-Lao Friendship Bridge remains closed as authorities on both sides struggle to agree on the issue of border demarcation.
Once opened, the bridge will boost commerce between the two nations and will also allow direct trade with Thailand, Vietnam and China, the Myanmar Times reported on Thursday.
The Presidents of Myanmar and Laos inaugurated the bridge in May last year, which connects Eastern Shan State’s Tachileik district to Long district in the Lao province of Luang Namtha.
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But, following delays in surveying and agreeing on the border line, the bridge is still not open to commerce.
“The bridge is symbolic because it will be the first time in recent years that the two countries have been connected by an official border trading point,” said U Myint Oo, chair of Tachileik Border Trade Chamber of Commerce.
“Shan State Chief Minister U Linn Htut has been presented with the case for allowing trade flows across the bridge to begin as soon as possible, but the authority to agree on the border line lies with the Union government,” he added.
While the immediate benefit of an open bridge would be greater trade with Laos, the bridge would also help join Myanmar with Vietnam, by creating a road link connecting the Kyaukphyu deep sea port and special economic zone in Myanmar’s Rakhine State with the Haiphong Seaport in Vietnam.
Trade with China would also be simplified as at present, Chinese imports to Myanmar come through the Mong La border point, which is a largely lawless region controlled by the United Wa State Army and an affiliated group.