There is news from The Irrawaddy that Burma and Laos plan to levy uniform charges on cargo boats using the stretch of the Mekong that separates northern Laos from the Shan State. Most of the traffic on this stretch of the river is now Chinese.

According to the report:

The transport of goods on the Mekong River has been steadily increasing in recent years and is now cheaper than the land route to Thailand via the Friendship Bridge at Tachilek, in Burma’s Shan State. In the year ending September 2006, more than 200 ships a month arrived at Chiang Saen port, carrying 170,000 tons of goods, mostly agricultural products from China. Apart from its official port, Chiang Saen has eight privately-run harbors and jetties.

The regulation of trade and transport on this stretch of river continues to be a crucial issue for the whole region. For New Mandala readers keen to read more on this topic, Andrew’s 1999 book puts current developments in a much longer historical perspective.