Thailand and Laos have signed their first cooperative agreement to connect a bustling port in Chiang Saen district of Chiang Rai province with Muang Mom port on the other side of the Mekong River, to bolster trade among countries in the area including southern China. Officials signed an MoU on Thursday to promote bilateral trade and further develop the ports as major trade centres for Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and China, said Lt Kamolsak Promprayoon, deputy chief of the Port Authority of Thailand (PAT). Thailand has also struck a deal with Lao’s Muang Mom Group, which was awarded a state concession to manage Muang Mom port for 40 years. Hailing it as the first such MoU in the Mekong area, Lt JG Kamolsak said he was confident the northern Thai port would see continual growth in terms of transported goods and tourism.
The ports have served as transit points for other cities in the Mekong basin for years. The ruling Thai junta want to use the MoU to help pave the way for a Chiang Saen special economic zone. There are plans for it to be upgraded later to a logistics and tourism hub as well as a gateway to southern China. However, the ultimate goal is to cut the cost of transporting goods along this section of the Mekong and encourage more trade-related traffic, the deputy chief said.
Reports say Laos is hungry for development projects but Lt JG Kamolsak said the Thai government should not focus on Laos alone. Next month, the PAT will “sign a similar MoU with its Chinese counterparts at Guan Lei port in Xishuangbanna,” he said, referring to a tourist hot spot in South China. The PAT urged Thai exporters to ship frozen chickens in containers along the Mekong to China for the first time since early this year. China responded by building freezer facilities at the aforementioned port. “Demand [for frozen chicken] is very high, but exports are not increasing,” Lt Jg Kamolsak said. The MoU could help because both sides are mandated to survey which goods can be promoted. Bilateral trade jumped 12.2% on-year in the first half of 2018 to reach 7.4 billion baht.
Source: Nauvarat Suksamran @ Bangkok Post 24 August 2018.