Thai-Chinese rail on fast track
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha says the construction of the delayed Thai-Chinese development railway project must start soon despite slow negotiations between Thai and Chinese officials.
"This project must materialise even if there are some hiccups in the investment details," said Gen Prayut after meeting ministers yesterday.
He closely follows the progress of major projects under each ministry, and the Transport Ministry has been a major focus because investment schemes in this sector are meant to boost the economy.
Gen Prayut said Laos had already signed a contract for a railway linking to the Thai-Chinese route.
Construction was scheduled to start Oct 23 but the related parties have not found a consensus over the construction costs.
The project finance will be carried out under a Thai-Chinese special-purpose vehicle scheme.
Thailand signed an agreement with the Chinese government last December to build a 873-kilometre dual-gauge route from Nong Khai province to the industrial area Map Ta Phut in Rayong province passing through the capital Bangkok.
The dual-gauge rail line plans to carry medium-speed trains accommodating mostly freight or goods delivery, and would cost 400 billion baht.
The railway will help improve Thailand's logistics competitiveness and perhaps help the country become a regional transport hub.
Gen Prayut said the Chinese government reassured him it was keen to start the project as Chinese exports could more cheaply penetrate the Asean market through this railway.
"The Chinese will definitely be able to sell more goods in Thailand and our neighbours with this project. It will benefit Thailand as well. We must do this project," he said.
Gen Prayut brushed aside the US government statement yesterday that it would review Thailand's eligibility for its Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) trade exemption because of complaints that Thailand is not properly protecting workers' rights.
"That [issue] doesn't matter. British and EU representatives just met me yesterday and I asked them if this problem [workers' rights] was worse before my term. Has anyone made such an improvement as the current administration [on this issue]? For both IUU [illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing] and human trafficking, have you ever seen a government put greater effort into addressing these issues seriously than we do?" he said.
"I asked them if those previous elected governments had done better than me. Have they ever registered all the fishing boats or implemented regulations as we have done? You know, they were just quiet.
"I asked them to tell the Americans about this. I don't want any more disputes with the Americans about this issue."
However, Gen Prayut pledged to resolve the issue by asking the related parties to cooperate with the government.