The Kunming-Bangkok Expressway is again closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Laos unilaterally closed the expressway that runs from China to Thailand via Laos. Drivers from Thailand are not allowed to cross the border with Laos. Only drivers from Laos are allowed to transport goods through the country, but the number of drivers from Laos is quite small. More than 300 shipping containers are stuck at the Thai-Laos border in Chiang Rai. In addition, the transport cost has increased three-fold. Exporters find the hardship too much to bear.
This new measure was implemented in May and the distribution cost in Thailand immediately went up. Furthermore, the number of truck drivers in Laos is small and they do not have enough experience to drive trucks for every brand as some products require particular attention. Some companies find it impossible to transport their products. On top of everything, the 300 shipping containers were stuck at the border through the 3-day weekend around Labor Day on the first of May.
This policy forced companies to find alternative routes, such as the R9 between Vietnam and Guangxi, even though that route adds more than 1,000 kilometres to the overall journey. This is the peak period of Thai fruit export to China and the price is already quite high.
Apart from this, the Mekong River route is also blocked. Chinese authorities previously closed the river port at the border to limit the spread of COVID-19. Thai authorities hope that China will soon open the river route again and relieve the pressure.