Representatives from six countries along the Mekong River took a week-long tour of the region last week, beginning July 22 with a drive from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City.
The goal of the trip was to learn about economic development opportunities in Southeast Asia while traveling along roads that will hopefully in the future allow easy access from one country to the next, officials on the tour said.
The visit was sponsored by the Asian Development Bank as part of its Greater Mekong Sub-region project, ADB resident representative in Cambodia Urooj Malik said. The bank has invested $1 billion in this project.
Construction of the Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City highway is being financed through a low interest ADB loan of $40 million to Cambodia and $100 million to Vietnam, Malik said. Launched at the end of 1999, the highway should be completed in 2003.
The tour, which began with a meeting in Phnom Penh attended by Minister of Tourism Veng Sereyvuth, included discussions on transportation, roads and ports, energy, telecommunications and tourism in countries that share the banks of the Mekong River.
The delegation consisted of government officials, business people and NGO representatives from Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam and China’s Yunnan province. The delegation used roads being built or that will be improved with ADB support in Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.
According to the ADB, the ultimate goal of these road projects is to reduce poverty by opening access to markets, and to help develop rural areas along country borders.
Land law experts have suggested that work on the Phnom Penh-Ho Chi Minh City highway may lead to an increase in land value along the road, making it imperative to register titles on state and private land between Phnom Penh and the Vietnamese border before land speculation starts.