MMI Research 23

Transport Logistics Plan in Indochina

by Assoc.Porf.Dr. Ittiphol Pan-ngum et al in 1998 *(The Full Text view in Thai Language only)*

Abstract

          The present Study was undertaken to assess the present state of the trade routes and transport infrastructures of Laos PDR and Vietnam vis-a-vis transport networks in Thailand with the view on future expansion of the networks as often discussed by governments of the sub-regional riparian countries of the Mekong River under various economic co-orperation platforms. Transportation was viewed in the light of needs for international trades as incomes derived form it are vital for the maintenance and the expansion of the networks, bearing in mind that sea trade was already in a more prominent position for countries with ease of access to the sea ports. The study was based on trade data collected at border crossings; subjective interviews of traders, exporters, importers and provincial trade councils in Thailand. Transport study was extensively conducted in Laos PDR and visits were made to Vietnam: Hanoi, Haiphong, Danang Hochimin City and Vungtao.

           The trend of Thai international trade has steadily increased over the past five years. At the end of 1996 export stands at 56.9 US$ bn, about 1/12 of that of USA at 554 US$bn. Taking Thai figure as the bench-mark, China and Malaysia stand better at 2.55 and 1.37 times that of Thai Exports; while Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos are at 0.018, 0.13, 0.011 and 0.005 respectively. The bilateral-trades with Thailand are however increasing and encouraging. At the end of 1996 total Thai-China trade was 97 Bt.bn., a large increase from 62 Bt.bn. of 1992, the trade however were almost all conducted by sea. Thai exports, in 1996, to Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar were in Bt.bn., 14.7, 9.20, 9.19 and 8.01; while imports were respectively at 1.66, 1.74, 1.21 and 3.29. Thai exports, in 1992, to Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar were in Bt.bn., 2.04, 1.04, 2.36 and 3.57; while imports were respectively at, 2.04, 1.04, 2.37 and 3.58. The trade balances had been in favor of Thailand. For Vietnam, similar to China, the predominant transport mode was sea transport despite comparatively better land transport connection; thanks to the nature of goods: e.g. exports of vehicles and parts and imports of live and chilled sea food mostly directed to factories in southern part of Thailand.

           Provincial borders of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar were exposed to trade as never before experienced in history. Taking Nongkai as a bench-mark where international and border trade are virtually inseparable, trade with Thailand amount to over 6,000 Bt.m. [plus about 10% of through trade with third countries]; Chiengrai, Mukdaharn and Tak weighted in at 40, 36 and 28% of the figure. At the end of 1996 there are 14 permanent trading points complete with iTRIgration and custom offices. The amount of border-trades may be less than significant in comparison with the international trade position of Thailand but it is of paramount importance to not only the provincial Thai entrepreneurs but more so for their counterparts across the borders.

           Transport and facilitation or lack of them are keys to the economic co-operation in the sub-region. With Laos as the central land-mass, bordering four countries, the arterial roads No. 13[north-south] and the lateral roads No.1 and 2 in the northern part, linking Thailand with south-western province of China as well as the northern part of Vietnam; and No. 9 providing land link for Mukdaharn with central part of Vietnam and the Port of Danang on the South China Sea are undergoing rehabilitation with meager budgets. With the completion of the first bridge across Nongkai and Vientiane improvement over trade facility is in want, although the first railway into Laos will become a reality soon. Regarding trade facilitation over the bridge, the Thai - Myanmar friendship bridge in Tak fair no better than the one mentioned. As Cambodia slipped back into civil war, road and railway projects link Thailand with the southern part of Vietnam envisaged by various international forum will not be realized. If and when these road and rail links are completed, Vietnam would have to come up with large transport infrastructure investments in order to cope with the intended passage to the sea of her next-door neighbors as the present limited budgets only avail the opportunity of rehabilitating Highway No. 1 and a few lateral roads around Hanoi and Hochimin City and the arterial railway. As Vietnam has been undergoing economic reform and privatizing her state enterprises, including transport organizations; intense competition for central government funds as well as foreign investments is observed among various modes of transport: e.g. road, rail, inland and coastal shipping international shipping and ports; each with accent on earning revenue and making profits.

           The Mekong River, the focal point of international projects for economic development since the end of World War II, has yet to be tamed for navigation. Apart from the permanent physical barriers in the form of rapids, demarcating Laos and Cambodia; various rapids and shoals exist to the north, leading to China but these are manageable with proper technology and willingness of the countries concerned to undertake the project. The non-physical barrier such as navigation agreement among the riparian countries, rendering the River an international river for navigation and transport, is still illusive. Vessels trading between China and Thailand are kept small and unable to meet demand for bulk cargoes: e.g. fuel/oil, grains, steel products, rubber; fruits and vegetables and manufactured goods. River, land and sea transport integration would bring for the less accessible areas of Laos, Myanmar and south western part of China the desired economic opportunities. Trade and transport facilitation, including harmonized rules and regulations, common recognition of land and water transport vehicles, operating/ driving and pilot licenses must come before any logistics plan made meaningful

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