Just say ‘no’ to river plan | Bangkok Post: opinion

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Just say ‘no’ to river plan

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Most of the attention generated by the new national authorities has focused on the attitude they are bringing to their job. The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has chosen the feel-good slogan "National Happiness". In truth, the high-profile opening gambits have been largely welcomed and successful. They include serious items like restoring peace and an end to political violence alongside less serious ones like the World Cup. But the hard work is already beginning, and there will be disputes. The NCPO needs to lay down some ground rules. 

New regimes always get a honeymoon period when the public at large gives them a chance to show their best side and get comfortable in their new positions. By its own orders, the NCPO has only a short honeymoon period. Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and his aides have promised not just a new regime but a new system, spurred by reform. Even as he was getting established, traps and pitfalls were being set for the NCPO, as if the job is not difficult enough.

One of the early economic decisions made by the military regime was to order a re-evaluation of the former government's infrastructure megaprojects. Ex-premier Yingluck Shinawatra and former ministers had approved an unprecedented, two-part plan. The core was a massive construction plan, especially national roads and railways, improvement and new projects. The equally important funding issue proposed a new method of borrowing the necessary 2.2 trillion baht — outside the national budget and traditional bond market. The overall plan, especially the financing, is now dead. The NCPO has, however, adopted most of the details of the actual megaproject. It has, at least temporarily, dumped high-speed rail but has added numerous other local and national construction, including air and shipping ports. The new budget is at 3 trillion baht and rising. The megaproject has won guarded approval from the public, although there will be — and should be — strongly argued opposition from many localities. Gen Prayuth's economic team, which is still being built, has promised full environmental assessments at all stages.

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