PHNOM PENH, June 25 (Reuters) – Japan signed an agreement to provide a $131 million grant to Cambodia to build what will be the longest bridge across the Mekong River and a major link in a regional transport network.
Construction of the bridge over the Mekong, at the town of Neak Leoung, southeast of the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, is expected to begin soon and should be completed by 2015.
''It's to contribute to the transfer of people and goods for Cambodia and all the Mekong region,'' Japan's ambassador to Cambodia, Masafumi Kuroki, told reporters at the signing ceremony.
Cambodia is still rebuilding its infrastructure, with the help of foreign aid donors, after decades of war and turmoil that ended in the 1990s.
Travellers now have to use a ferry to cross the river at Neak Leoung, a major bottleneck on the main road between Phnom Penh and Vietnam.
Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said the bridge would facilitate the transport of goods and people between Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and China.
''This bridge is very important, not only for Cambodia, but also for all countries in the Mekong region,'' the minister said.
Japan took the lead at an aid donors conference this month when Cambodia was promised a total of $1.1 billion in aid for 2010, more than the government had been expecting, to support a goal of 6 percent economic growth for the year.