Friendship Bridge Speech 2019
26 April 19
His Excellency Mr Ron-na-xay Chit-vi-set, Governor of Nong Khai Province Thailand
His Excellency Mr Si-houn Si-thi-leu-xay, Vice Governor of Vientiane Capital,
His Excellency Mr Mr Kiat-ti-khun Chart-pra-sert, Thai Ambassador to Lao PDR
Ladies and Gentleman,
Sabaidee and Sah-wah-dee Krab
I am very pleased to be here on behalf of the Australian Government, to celebrate with you the 25th anniversary of the First Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge over the Mekong River.
The opening of the Bridge in 1994 was a momentous event and a significant milestone in the history and development of Lao PDR, the relations between Laos and Thailand, and those between Australia and countries in the region.
That is why the Friendship Bridge is a project Australians continue to look on with great pride.
When Australia decided to fund the First Friendship Bridge we knew the economic benefits for Thailand and Laos would be significant.
And so it has been proven.
In 2017, 864,000 tourists arrived in Laos via the bridge – two times more than through Wattay Airport.
The total value of imports and exports across the Bridge has grown by more than 100% since its opening.
And almost 700,000 vehicles cross the Bridge each year.
Despite the use of the Bridge constantly increasing, I am glad to see it has stood the test of time – a testament to the high quality planning, design and construction of the Bridge, and a sustainable approach to its financing and management.
But this Bridge is also more than just high quality concrete and steel.
When we offered to build it, the Australian Government knew it would provide more than just a physical connection between two neighbours on the Mekong River.
The construction of the first Friendship Bridge represented genuine collaboration among our three countries, and helped to cement a new, peaceful era in the relationship between Lao PDR and Thailand.
While the design and oversight of the construction of the Bridge was Australian, the materials used came from all three countries, and most of the construction work was carried out by Lao and Thai workers.
Whenever I cross the Friendship Bridge, I am proud to see that close cooperation continues to this day.
I am struck by the continual teamwork of the Lao and Thai Governments who work side by side to manage and facilitate the crossing of people and goods between their two nations.
Over the past 25 years, with some ongoing support from Australia, the Lao and Thai Governments have also partnered for the effective maintenance and improvement of the Bridge and its operations.
That is why, to me, the Bridge remains a symbol of the enduring bonds of friendship between Lao PDR, Thailand and Australia, and the ongoing commitment of Australia to the peace and prosperity of its neighbourhood: south-east Asia.
In fact, this year will mark 45 years since Australia became the first dialogue partner of ASEAN – another significant milestone.
Australia continues today to support and invest in ASEAN member countries like Laos and Thailand, and to promote development and regional stability.
And I hope our friendships with the region, like the friendship represented by this Bridge, will continue on for many more years to come.
I would like to end by thanking everyone involved for their collaboration to make these two days of celebratory events possible.
And I hope there will be many more opportunities throughout the rest of the year to mark the 25th anniversary.
I wish you all good health, and success in your endeavours.
And good luck in the golf game to come!
Kop Jai and Khob Khun Kup.