KRATIE, Cambodia, Jan. 2 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia on Monday broke ground for the construction of a bridge across the Mekong River here in the country's northeastern part, with funds from China.
The ceremony was presided over by Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen and Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Wang Wentian, and was attended by thousands of local officials, residents and students.
The 1,761-km-by-13.5-meter bridge, along with a 31.69-km connecting road, will be constructed by the Shanghai Construction Group under China's preferential loan, and the construction is expected to be completed in 42 months.
Hun Sen said the bridge is another fruitful result of close cooperation and solidarity between Cambodia and China under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
He said the bridge is strategically important, as it is part of Cambodia's National Road 60B that links Kratie with central Kampong Thom province.
"The bridge, along with its connecting road, will give a boost to goods transport, trade and investment activities as well as the development of agriculture, agro-industry and tourism in northeastern provinces," he said.
The prime minister added that it will also facilitate local people's daily travel, students' commutes and patients' emergency travel to hospitals.
"People will no longer cross the river by ferry or boat, and it will save both time and money," he said.
Wang said 2023 marks the 10th anniversary of the BRI, saying that under this initiative, the bilateral cooperation between China and Cambodia has achieved remarkable results in the infrastructure development sector.
"The Kratie bridge across the Mekong River, which is broken ground for the construction today, is the latest achievement of cooperation between China and Cambodia under the BRI," he said.
"The bridge will allow people to travel across the Mekong River smoothly and will undoubtedly contribute to socioeconomic development and livelihood improvement for residents on both sides of the river."
Wang added that the project is not only a bridge linking facilities but also a bridge connecting the hearts of the people between China and Cambodia.
As 2023 marks the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Cambodia and the "China-Cambodia Friendship Year", the ambassador said China is willing to work closely with Cambodia to build a community with a shared future between the two countries.
Eng Sreymen, a 39-year-old tailor living along a road leading to the bridge in Chetr Borei district, said currently, there is no bridge, and it is very difficult to travel across the river, and it costs both time and money.
"For crossing by boat, it costs 1,000 riels (25 U.S. cents) for a person and 1,000 riels for a motorcycle, so it costs 2,000 riels for a person with a motorcycle at daytime," she told Xinhua. "While at nighttime, boats are not in service, so if passengers want to cross the river, they have to rent a boat exclusively, which costs about 60,000 riels (15 U.S. dollars) for a single trip."
Sreymen said when the construction of the bridge is completed, people will be able to travel freely and transport goods to markets easily, no matter if it's daytime or nighttime, and without fears of storms or rainstorms in the rainy season.
"It will save time and money, and we will no longer spend money for crossing the river," she said.
Chea Boreth, a 42-year-old motorcycle mechanic along a road leading to the bridge, said he is very happy to witness a lot of China-aided achievements in Cambodia such as roads, bridges, hospitals and schools, among others.
"Moreover, Chinese enterprises have also invested a lot in Cambodia, which have created a lot of jobs for Cambodian people," he told Xinhua. ■