Feature: Thai border region expects China-Laos Railway boom

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BANGKOK, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) -- Lying on the Mekong River and with the Lao capital, Vientiane, about 22 km upriver, Thailand's northeast Nong Khai province is expecting the upcoming China-Laos Railway to provide a tailwind to the border region's development.

"The China-Laos Railway will help enhance economic and trade ties between Thailand and China," said Jiranun Sakultangphaisal, an advisor to the tourism association of Nong Khai.

"The Chinese market is huge. Lao businesses will sure benefit from the expansion of trade with China after the launch of the new rail service, which will also provide a boost to Thai businesses," Jiranun said.

"It's a good news for Nong Khai businesses," she said, expecting the train route to give the pandemic-battered tourism industry a shot in the arm.

The China-Laos Railway will make cross-border travel more convenient, hopefully bring more tourists to Nong Khai and create development opportunities for local catering, accommodation and other tourism-related industries, she said.

Riding the tailwind of the China-Laos Railway, Nong Khai should enhance cooperation with regions along the railway to develop railway-themed travel tours, during which people could see the magnificent views along the way, she said.

The China-Laos Railway, spanning over 1,000 km linking Vientiane with Kunming, capital of southwest China's Yunnan Province, is scheduled to be operational this week. The train route, starting construction in 2016, is expected to slash the land travel time between the two cities to less than a day.

For Ji Shulian, who has run a grocery store in Nong Khai for eight years, the new railway and reduced travel times bode well for her business.

The store, nestled on the bank of the Mekong River, used to see crowded customers but now only a trickle of domestic travellers on weekends, said Ji, expecting the new rail line to pick up more customers and get her business back on track.

"The commodities I sell here are imported from China and transported by lorry. The trip used to take one week, but now it takes more than two weeks. The opening of the China-Laos Railway will help me save time and money," said the 31-year-old woman from Shantou City in south China's Guangdong Province.

Duangjai Sukkasemsin, vice chairman of the Nong Khai Chamber of Commerce, expected the trade volume between Thailand and China, especially Thailand's exports of fresh fruit and other agricultural products to China and China's exports of high-tech products to Thailand, to rise after the opening of the China-Laos Railway, which will boost the development of logistics and warehousing industries in Nong Khai.

By seizing the new opportunities brought by the China-Laos Railway, Nong Khai could develop into a logistics and freight distribution center for Thailand-China trade, Duangjai said.

To facilitate the cross-border transportation between Nong Khai and Vientiane, the Thai government has recently unveiled a series of plans, including the building of a new railway bridge, increasing the number of railway trains running from Nong Khai to Vientiane, and building an import commodity inspection and transfer center near the Nong Khai Railway Station. Enditem

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