Udon Thani poised to grow as hub of Greater Mekong region

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Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha prays during his visit to Wang Nakhin in Kham Chanod, a Buddhist forest temple, in Udon Thani. The temple is close to a lake where the mythical naga lord Sisotho is believed to reside. (Government House photo)

A plan is afoot to transform Udon Thani into a hub of the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS), government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said yesterday.

The plan was announced by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha during his visit to the northeastern province, during which he pledged to stay on in power until the government’s tenure expires in early 2023.

To realise the plan, Gen Prayut said the government has approved a budget to finance infrastructural improvement projects, according to Mr Thanakorn.

At a meeting with local state officials and businesses yesterday, the premier said several projects were on the table to enable the transformation of Udon Thani into a GMS hub.

A high-speed railway is being built connecting Bangkok and Nong Khai, which will also pass Udon Thani, as part of the rail transport network being undertaken by China.

Udon Thani airport will also be expanded to handle up to 7 million passengers a year.

Mr Thanakorn said the Friendship Highway from Udon Thani to Nong Khai was also being widened to six lanes in both directions. Construction is under way and the project is expected to be completed in three years. The improved road will be a boon for growing businesses and tourism from Laos and China.

In addition, a new road will be forged connecting Udon Thani directly with neighbouring Bueng Kan province, which will be the site for 5th Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge. The road is estimated to cost around 5.5 billion baht.

The government spokesman said Gen Prayut commended local investors for establishing the province’s industrial estate, the first in the Northeast.

Mr Thanakorn said Gen Prayut has pledged to construct a dedicated road and rail line to the estate, raising the efficiency of cargo transport.

The prime minister described Udon Thani as a primary tourism destination that has been upgraded to a meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (Mice) city.

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