KOMPONG CHAM, Cambodia, Dec. 4 Kyodo
Nearly 10,000 people, including Prime Minister Hun Sen and the chief of the parliamentary friendship group between Cambodia and Japan, celebrated Tuesday the construction of the first bridge over the Mekong River in Cambodia.
The building of the bridge, which links Cambodia’s main road No. 7 to Vietnam, was financed by the grand aid from the Japanese government totaling 6.38 billion yen (some $56 million).
At the inauguration ceremony, Hun Sen said, ”This bridge is the most important artery for economic development in Cambodia as well as for the physical integration of ASEAN, in particular, to narrow the gap between the new and old members of ASEAN.”
Cambodia belongs to the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
”It is the very great asset provided by Japanese people toward Cambodia,” he added.
Takami Eto, head of the Japan-Cambodia parliamentary friendship league and Japanese Ambassador to Cambodia Gotaro Ogawa were among the attendees at the ceremony.
The bridge was named as ”Kizuna” meaning ”tie” in English, and thus symbolizing a link between the eastern and the western sides of the Mekong River, and ties between the two peoples of Cambodia and Japan.
At the inaugural event, a traditional celebration of Japanese ”watarizome” or the first walk on the bridge to cerebrate the construction was conducted at the middle of the bridge, which is 1,360 meters in length and 12.2 meters in width. It has an navigational clearance of 15 meters at high water level.
The project started in February 1999 in Phnom Penh’s eastern province of Kompong Cham, 125 kilometers from the capital.
Two workers died and several others were injured in unexpected accidents during the construction of the bridge. It is the second project of its kind in Cambodia since the first bridge was completed in 1960s in Phnom Penh over Tonle Sap River.
Mekong River flows from Tibet in China down to Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam before emptying into the South China Sea with the total length of 4,200 km.
The river separates Cambodia into the east and west region, which hinders Cambodia’s economic development due to difficulties in transportation and road accessibility.
Only ferries were available before the completion of the bridge.
At the ceremony, Hun Sen highlighted the fact that the Cambodian government had prioritized roads, bridges and other linking infrastructures in its poverty reduction strategy.
The eastern provinces of Kratie, Stung Treng, Rattanakiri and Mondulkiri are hardly accessible by roads at the present time.