China hopes con­struc­tion of Thai rail­way can start quickly

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

China’s for­eign min­is­ter said yes­ter­day he hopes con­struc­tion of a new Thai rail­way can start im­me­di­ately so Thai­land will have bet­ter ac­cess to Chi­nese mar­kets.

Wang Yi spoke dur­ing an of­fi­cial visit to strengthen po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic re­la­tions, which have be­come in­creas­ingly warm in re­cent years as China has sought to spread its in­flu­ence and Thai­land’s mil­i­tary govern­ment has loos­ened ties with the United States, its tra­di­tional ally.

The joint Thai-Chi­nese plan for a new 179 bil­lion baht ($5.3 bil­lion) rail­way from Bangkok to the north­east has been re­peat­edly de­layed over dif­fer­ences about fi­nanc­ing and other is­sues. Last month, how­ever, Thai Prime Min­is­ter Prayuth Chan-ocha is­sued a spe­cial or­der to ex­pe­dite con­struc­tion by de­cree­ing that cer­tain reg­u­la­tions could be ig­nored, in­clud­ing la­bor rules, so that Chi­nese en­gi­neers could work on the project. The rail­road is part of China’s “One Belt, One Road” project al­low­ing cross-bor­der devel­op­ment and con­nec­tiv­ity among Asian coun­tries, Africa, China and Europe.

Wang and Thai For­eign Min­is­ter Don Pra­mud­winai spoke in a joint news brief­ing of their two coun­tries’ good re­la­tions and ma­jor long-term pro­jects. Wang met ear­lier with Prime Min­is­ter Prayuth.

“We want to has­ten the China and Thai­land rail­way project, and make sure that con­struc­tion can start im­me­di­ately, which would al­low Thai­land to con­nect to the large mar­ket in China and be­come a hub of re­gional con­nec­tiv­ity,” Wang said.

Don called the rail project an ex­am­ple of an­cient dreams com­ing closer to re­al­ity thanks Chi­nese ef­forts. “China, over the past 40 years, has been able to have their peo­ple’s dreams come true. They have trans­formed them­selves from a coun­try with mil­lions of peo­ple liv­ing in poverty, to now be­ing able to free those mil­lions from poverty,” he said.

Thai deputy govern­ment spokesman Weer­a­chon Sukhond­ha­p­ati­pak told re­porters that Prayuth “is de­ter­mined to im­prove the al­ready good re­la­tion­ship with China.” He said Thai­land is ready to strate­gi­cally co­op­er­ate with China in all as­pects to ben­e­fit both na­tions.

He said their devel­op­ment plans ben­e­fit both coun­tries, giv­ing the rail project as an ex­am­ple of a Chi­nese plan that meshes with Thai­land’s in­ten­tions to up­grade its tech­no­log­i­cal abil­i­ties and de­velop its Eastern Seaboard. Thai­land’s mil­i­tary govern­ment, which took power in a 2014 coup, has been crit­i­cized by the United States for fail­ing to re­store democ­racy and lim­it­ing civil rights, putting a strain on re­la­tions with Wash­ing­ton.

At the same time, it has ex­panded links with Bei­jing and adopted poli­cies - such as lim­ited tol­er­ance of so­cial and po­lit­i­cal ac­tivism, and mass sur­veil­lance, es­pe­cially on­line - that seem based on Chi­nese con­cepts of so­cial dis­ci­pline.

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