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China Section of Kunming-Bangkok Highway Completed

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The Chinese stretch of a trans-national highway linking Kunming City in the southwest Yunnan Province with the Thai capital of Bangkok was completed on Friday, marking progress in a land link from China to southeast Asia.

The 688-kilometer Chinese section starts in Yunnan provincial capital Kunming and stops at Mohan, an important trade port on the Sino-Laotian border. The first stretch of the section -- from Kunming to Yuxi -- was completed in April 1999. The total length will be 1,887 km.

The opening of the Chinese section will reduce the travel time from Kunming to Bangkok by half, to about 20 hours.

Qin Guangrong, Yunnan's governor, said at the opening ceremony: "The opening of the Chinese stretch will greatly enhance transport facilities and promote common development and the prosperity of people of the nations along the road."

The sections in Thailand and Laos have been almost completed, except for a bridge linking the two nations.

The Chinese section costs about 25 billion yuan (US$3.5 billion)

As key part of Asian road network, the project is an important infrastructural facility for construction of the China-ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) free trade zone and the Lancang-Mekong River subregional economic cooperation. The 4,000-km Mekong River, also called Lancang River in China, begins in the Tibet plateau and flows through China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Experts estimate the full opening of the highway will realize cargo transport worth US$400 billion each year.

Driven by tourism, the gross domestic product of regions along the road will also be greatly boosted.

"Undoubtedly, relevant countries will all benefit a lot from it as long as the whole road opens," said Li Jiming, deputy director of Yunnan Provincial Commerce Department.

(Xinhua News Agency March 22, 2008)