The Thai economy will be powered by a southern land bridge megaproject, which will connect the Gulf of Thailand with the Andaman Sea, as part of the state's ambitious plan to make Thailand a logistics hub in Asean, says Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob.
The minister highlighted the southern land bridge project as he, together with key business people and state authorities, were asked to share their views on how to drive the country -- now reeling from a third Covid-19 outbreak -- forward.
The megaproject has drawn support from the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) as its chairman, Supant Mongkolsuthree, said he believes the project will support the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) scheme.
Spanning three provinces, including Chon Buri, Rayong and Chachoengsao on the eastern coast in the Gulf of Thailand, the EEC is set to become a high-tech industrial area.
Mr Saksayam said the government wants to invest in infrastructure projects covering sea, air, and land to serve economic growth.
"The southern land bridge will be a new route of logistics and trade in the region, replacing the Strait of Malacca," he told a seminar titled "Empowering Thailand" on Wednesday.
"The land bridge will become the shortest shipping lane from the Indian Ocean to the Gulf of Thailand and the Pacific Ocean."
Last month, Mr Saksayam urged agencies to speed up work on this megaproject. He said 16-metre-deep ports will be constructed at both ends, with connections to the nation's transportation network under the Motorway-Rail Map project, which is known as MR Map.
His ministry expects to realise the whole picture of the project next year after the cabinet approved its initial feasibility study, he said.
"Many foreign investors have shown interest in investing in the land bridge. This will pave the way for Thailand to be an 'economic tiger' in Asean again," said Mr Saksayam.
The government is also planning to build many MR routes, including MR5, linking Ranong with Chumphon in the South, MR6, connecting Phuket with Surat Thani, and MR4, stretching from Chon Buri to Trat on the eastern coast.