Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi told Thai Deputy Prime Minister Supachai Panitchpakdi on Monday that Japan will step up financial support to Thailand in a bid to help the country’s poor.

During 20 minutes of talks, Obuchi said Japan wants to move ahead with financial support for Thailand through such organizations as the International Monetary Fund, Foreign Ministry officials said.

Supachai also urged the Japanese government to consider loans to finance a project to build a bridge over the Mekong river between Thailand and Laos to open up development opportunities for areas along the river, the officials said. Thailand and Laos are seeking low-interest loans from Japan for the project, but Obuchi’s administration is still waiting for the result of a feasibility study on the project.

Trade Chief Kaoru Yosano told Panitchpakdi that Japan will consider Thailand’s request to allow for more flexible use of $8 billion worth of Japan’s trade insurance with Thailand to cover short-term projects.

In October, Japan worked out a trade insurance program for medium- to long-term structural reform projects to help Japanese companies boost funds in Thailand after the financial crisis that has hurt the Southeast Asian nation since last year.

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