China-Thai railway project can serve as an example for expanded Asia network

20-Dec-2016 Intellasia | Global Times | 6:00 AM Print This Post

A contentious Chinese railway project in Thailand has long been regarded as an important test of China’s ambition to export its railway technology to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean). According to the Xinhua News Agency, the construction of an initial 3.5-kilometer section of the railway “will start soon after a bidding in early 2017.” That section should be built as a prototype project for expediting the build-up of infrastructure in China’s neighbouring countries to create greater China-Asean economic integration.

Questions have swirled around issues pertaining to the project, such as operation length, financing and costs. The construction of this starting section will hopefully provide a platform for China and Thailand to properly handle relevant sensitive issues. The planned China-Thailand railway marks the construction of the first standard-gauge railway in Thailand where China’s standard, technology and equipment will be applied. A Reuters report in September said China cut the project cost from 560 billion baht ($16.09 billion) to 179 billion baht in response to Thailand’s request that the initial pricing was too costly. In this respect, China has to prove that its technologies are both cost-effective and reliable during the construction of the initial section, which will help build its reputation as an exporter of rail technology.

A popular view among some Thai netisens is that China will benefit more from the project than Thailand, so the construction of the initial section also provides a chance to change their attitude. In addition, Chinese firms should team up with local companies to build the railway and hire more Thai workers. The two countries must develop a model of cooperative partnership based on mutual benefit. For instance, Chinese firms can join hands with Thai companies to be a part of the commercial development of the land alongside the China-Thailand railway.

Thai Transport minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith noted that the construction of this first section will be followed by other parts in the first phase of a project to build a 256-kilometer high-speed railway from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima, according to a Xinhua report over the weekend. The two countries should draw on the various experiences from the construction of this section for the remainder of the project.

The construction of this initial section is aimed at encouraging China-Thailand cooperation which can play an exemplary role in expediting the build-up of railway networks in Asia. China should make every effort to ensure that the project progresses smoothly so it can realise its ambition.


Category: Thailand

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