Building Bridges, Cementing Friendships
The bridge was designed and built by Australian companies as a demonstration of their ability to complete major infrastructure projects in Southeast Asia. The concept design of a balanced cantilever bridge was proposed by Bruce Ramsay of VSL with the final design carried out by Maunsell consulting engineers
Looking back over 70 years of bilateral cooperation between Laos and Australia, the significance of the First Lao-Thai Friendship bridge comes up again and again. The bridge across the lower Mekong links the town of Nong Khai in Thailand with Vientiane, the capital of Lao PDR. Video footage from 1994 shows the iconic moment when Thai King Bhumibol and Lao President Nouhak jointly opened the bridge, right after a speech from Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating.
Before the opening of the bridge, the total value of trade through Nong Khai Customs House was 3.6 billion baht. A year later, the value had increased by 34 per cent to 4.8 billion baht. Now, Thailand makes up more than 10 per cent of foreign investment in Laos. Australia continues to support regional integration, including through the new Mekong-Australia Partnership and the regional Partnerships for Infrastructure program.
Quote from 1994 Australian Ambassador to Laos – Roland Rich
It’s hard to think back now, with the fifth friendship bridge under construction, to a time when Laos really was landlocked and the only way to cross the river was by boat. It’s important to acknowledge that there were many years of hard work leading up to the opening.