Australia, Thailand and Lao PDR celebrate lasting friendship as
the first Friendship Bridge turns twenty
8 April 2014
On 8 April 1994, 20 years ago, HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, presided over the opening of the first-ever friendship bridge between Thailand and Lao PDR across the Mekong River – “the Thai – Lao Friendship Bridge”. This bridge, which was built and funded by Australia, is an enduring symbol of Australia’s commitment to its neighbourhood and of the ties that bind the people of Thailand, Lao PDR and Australia. This bridge has cultivated friendship, cooperation and networks across the Mekong and beyond.
To celebrate this anniversary, HE Mr James Wise, Australian Ambassador to Thailand, HE Mr John Williams, Australian Ambassador to Lao PDR, HE Soukan Mahalath, Mayor of Vientiane Capital, and Mr Wirat Limsuwat, Governor of Nong Khai Province, presided over four days of events in Nong Khai Province.
On Saturday 5 April, distinguished guests attended the opening and awards ceremony of the photo exhibition, “The Nong Khai-Vientiane Relationship on the Mekong River”, featuring 100 photos by photographers from Thailand and Lao PDR. The opening of a Thai-Lao Botanical Garden at Nong Kom Ko Sub-District, Muang District, Nong Khai followed. On Sunday 6 April, Australian representatives participated in the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge 20th Anniversary Cycling race and the 20th Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge Anniversary Golf Challenge at the Victory Park Golf and Country Club, Nong Khai. A four-day trade fair featured booths with products from Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, China and Australia.
The celebrations cumulated in an evening of Thai, Lao and Australian cultural performances on Saturday 5 April. Over 600 people attended. As part of the performances, Australian saxophonist Matt Keegan joined Thai guest artists Mr Pajone Peebung (drums) and Mr Prasobchok Duangmalai (bass), to perform a piece Mr Keegan had composed especially for the occasion, “The Bridge to Friends Suite”.
“As we look forward to the ASEAN Economic Community, the first Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge was an important early step in the building of an ASEAN community and remains a demonstration of what can be achieved with goodwill and well-targeted investment in infrastructure”, Ambassador Wise said in his remarks on Saturday night.
Ambassador Wise added, “Statistics demonstrate just how much the bridge has contributed to the economic prosperity and security of this region. In 1994, the year in which the bridge opened, around 105 000 people crossed the bridge. Last year, almost 6 million people crossed the bridge. In 1994, total trade over the bridge was 4.8 billion Baht. Last year, total trade over the bridge was nearly 60 billion Baht. The bridge has made a marvellous contribution to the economy and security of this region.”
“We Australians are very proud and very pleased to have been associated with this project and thank the organisers of the 20th anniversary celebrations for inviting Australia to participate”.
Australian Ambassador to Thailand, HE Mr James Wise (9th from left); Australian Ambassador to Lao PDR, HE Mr John Williams (6th from left); Mayor of Vientiane Capital, HE Soukan Mahalath (7th from left); and Nong Khai Governor, Mr Wirat Limsuwat (8th from left), made a toast on the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge to celebrate two decades of the bridge.
The opening of “The Nong Khai-Vientiane Relationship on the Mekong River” photo exhibition at the Thai-Lao Botanical Garden in Nong Khai: (from left to right) HE Mr John Williams, Australian Ambassador to Lao PDR; HE Mr Soukan Mahalath, Mayor of Vientiane Capital; Mr Wirat Limsuwat, Nong Khai Governor; and HE Mr James Wise, Australian Ambassador to Thailand.
Mr Sanchai Buasung, winner of ‘The Bridge of Friendship’ photo competition and his photography on display at ‘the Nong Khai-Vientiane Relationship on the Mekong River’ photo exhibition, Thai-Lao Botanical Garden.
Australian saxophonist Matt Keegan performed alongside Thai musicians Mr Pajone Peebung (drums) and Mr Prasobchok Duangmalai (bass) at the 20th anniversary of Thai – Lao Friendship Bridge celebration event in Nong Khai province on 5 April 2014.
Performance Goup ‘Pet Jarat Sang’ highlighted friendship between ASEAN countries and Australia at the 20th anniversary of Thai – Lao Friendship Bridge celebrations in Nong Khai province on 5 April 2014.