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Pattaya Daily News

22 June 2009 :: 18:06:36 pm 27336

New Silk Route To Bring Prosperity And Progress To Se Asia

The Silk Road, the ancient highway that originally linked Japan to the Mediterranean, is gradually being resurrected in the form of an interlinked road-rail network to stretch from China via Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos , Thailand, Malaysia and eventually to Europe. Recent Crucial trade agreements will facilitate free flow of trade throughout the region.
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The main rail route, the Trans-Asian Railway, now has almost 74,700km of working track, serving 29 countries, and is due to be completed over the next 10 to 15 years.

The original 4,000-mile route served as a crucial path for socio-cultural and technological transmission and was generally held to be largely responsible for the development of the great civilizations of China, India, Egypt, Persia, Arabia, and Rome over a period of 3,000 years.

The new Silk Route, like the old, will bring increased trade and economic prosperity to the economies along its way. Also like the old Silk Route, trade on the new one will be conducted via significant centres along the way, being handled by different agencies en route. The new network is part of a plan originally envisaged in the 1960s to connect Asia with a continuous railway, stretching west to Turkey and Russia, and north and east to China, Vietnam and South Korea.

Crucial to the flow of trade is the fact that existent barriers will be relaxed as, for example, the Cross Border Transport Agreement between Vietnam, Laos and Thailand, which now allows the fast-tracked throughput of truck cargoes via the three countries without interim unloading at border crossings, saving costs and time, as well as preventing theft and damage as happened previously when containers had to be off-loaded and trans-shipped.

Opening ceremonies of the East-West Corridor were held last week at two of its crucial intersections at Lao Bao in Vietnam and Dansavanh in Laos, and between Savannakhet in Laos and Mukdahan in Thailand. Plans are in place to extend the network into Burma by improving the road from Thailand to Burma?s Andaman coast.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has been instrumental in the realization of the East-West Corridor, now a modern highway, and is committed to developing the service and tourism industries of the countries across the route. Jean-Pierre Verbiest, ADB?s Country Director in Thailand, played down the assertion that Laos would suffer under the new arrangement as previously goods had to be trans-shipped through Laos. Mr. Verbiest argued that instead the Lao trucking industry could be developed and would benefit by its having far greater scope than previously.

Laos will also benefit by the building of a proposed new road along the Mekong River, starting in Laos, running past Champasak into Cambodia and on to Ho Chi Minh City, southern Vietnam. This thoroughfare would also allow the building of branch roads to serve and develop towns along the way, including giving better access to Phnom Penh and Siam Reap.

Arjun Thapan, Director General of ADB South-East Asia, was enthusiastic about the corridor, saying

“You can now set out from Thailand, do business in Laos, and arrive in time for dinner at Danang in Vietnam – all in the space of a single day?.

The interim rail links will also be of inestimable benefit to countries en route. The recent opening of the Friendship Bridge rail crossing of the Mekong between Laos and Thailand effectively freed Laos from its previous situation of being landlocked, without sea access. This was the first international rail link for Laos and represents a crucial link opening up a direct Singapore -Shanghai route.

Reporter : PDN staff   Photo : PDN staff   Category : World News

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