China-Thai­land rail deal will also ben­e­fit re­gion

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

There’s no gain with­out pain, as the say­ing goes, and that’s cer­tainly been true of the Chi­naThai­land high-speed rail­way, which has found its way strewn with ob­sta­cles be­fore the first phase fi­nally got the green light to go ahead on Tues­day. After years of de­lay, Thai­land’s Cab­i­net fi­nally ap­proved $5.2 bil­lion in funds to build a 252-kilo­me­ter rail­way that will cut the travel time be­tween the Thai cap­i­tal and its north­east­ern prov­ince of Nakhon Ratchasima from the nearly six hours it takes now to less than one and a half hours when it is com­pleted in 2021.

Ac­cord­ing to the deal, Thai com­pa­nies will be re­spon­si­ble for con­struc­tion of the rail­way, due to start in Septem­ber, while Chi­nese en­ter­prises will de­sign it, ad­vise on its con­struc­tion and pro­vide tech­nol­ogy and tech­ni­cal train­ing, among other things.

With a max­i­mum speed of 250 km per hour, the rail­way will help fa­cil­i­tate Thai­land’s trade and in­vest­ment, and at­tract more tourists. More im­por­tant, it will help re­store the con­fi­dence of for­eign in­vestors after years of po­lit­i­cal tur­moil in the coun­try. The Thai econ­omy has al­ready re­bounded after a decade of slow­down, with growth ex­pected to reach 3.4 per­cent this year, but the rail­way project will fur­ther pro­pel that good mo­men­tum.

The sec­ond phase of the project will see the rail­way ex­tend from Nakhon Ratchasima to Nong Khai, across the Mekong River from Vi­en­tiane, cap­i­tal of Laos, paving the way for a rail­way from Kun­ming, cap­i­tal of South­west China’s Yun­nan prov­ince, to Bangkok, and fi­nally to Sin­ga­pore.

The two sides first agreed to build the rail­way in Thai­land as early as in 2010. That it has taken so long for the project to fi­nally be put on track, after Thai Prime Min­is­ter Prayuth Chan-ocha in­voked an ex­ec­u­tive or­der last month to clear the le­gal and po­lit­i­cal hur­dles stand­ing in the way, speaks of the need for China to bet­ter com­mu­ni­cate the ben­e­fits of the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive to all mem­bers of so­ci­ety in coun­tries along the new Silk Road routes.

There were dis­agree­ments on costs, loan in­ter­est rates and la­bor rules, but fail­ure to kick-start the in­fra­struc­ture project ear­lier was mainly due to the con­cerns among Thais about how much or­di­nary peo­ple would ben­e­fit from the rail­way.

How­ever, both coun­tries be­lieve that their and the re­gion’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment po­ten­tial will be fur­ther boosted by the rail­way, which will serve to pro­mote the con­struc­tion of a tran­sAsian high-speed rail­way net­work.

And it shows that China and coun­tries in the re­gion are will­ing to join hands to cre­ate a fa­vor­able trade and in­vest­ment en­vi­ron­ment from which all can ben­e­fit.

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