Time to revisit canal project

Time to revisit canal project

It is rare to see MPs from the government side and the opposition joining a chorus of support to back a motion in the House, but this is what happened last week.

On Thursday, the government and opposition MPs backed a proposal to set up a House committee to study the so-called Thai Canal project, previously known as the Kra Canal project.

The motion was proposed by Maj Gen Songklod Thiprat, leader of the Thai Nation Power Party, one of the small parties on the government's side.

The MPs include those from the government coalition parties such as the ruling Phalang Pracharath, Bhumjaithai, and Democrat parties, and from the opposition, including Pheu Thai, Future Forward and Prachachart.

They said the project will bring a great deal of benefit to the country particularly in terms of the economy. Previous concerns over national security regarding the project were not raised.

The House resolved to set up a 49-member committee to study the project within 120 days.

The idea of a canal project linking the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea was initiated in the 1950s, when it bore its previous name of the Kra Canal project. The idea has been dusted off every few years but never materialised.

One of the key concerns about the Kra Canal project related to security. Some feared the project would separate the South from the rest of Thailand and allow insurgents in the deep South to expand their movement.

In addition, a rumour circulated that Singapore had lobbied Thai politicians to derail the plan, as its regional maritime hub status might be undercut if the Kra Canal was developed.

However, there has never been evidence to back up such rumours and, in fact, most recent studies of the potential fallout of a functioning Kra Canal conclude there would be little consequence for Singapore.

As global economic challenges prevail and China's ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, or BRI, continues to make waves in international economic affairs, it is the right time for the House of Representatives to dust off the project again, and it's good to see MPs from both political sides supporting the move.

The marine belt of China is set to pass through the Strait of Malacca, benefiting Malaysia and Singapore. Thailand is not directly on the BRI path.

The Thai Canal project could help Thailand share benefits from China's initiative with a new and shorter marine route and become another key driving force for the economy.

The latest version of the Kra Canal project would dig through Krabi, Trang, Phatthalung, Nakhon Si Thammarat and Songkhla with a distance of 128 kilometres.

The original Kra Canal was planned to cut through the Kra Isthmus between Ranong and Chumphon, which is the narrowest part of the South with the distance of about 50km.

The prime concerns about this project, in case it is approved for development, are not national security and unity any more but about transparency and the potential impact of the project's construction on local people.

Those affected by the project must receive fair relief measures and compensation. Construction plans of the project have to be under thorough checks to ensure transparency.

A referendum may have to take place if the project is really going to be kicked off.

The government should make this project part of its national agenda and conduct a feasibility study for it.

Editorial

Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

Email : ploenpotea@bangkokpost.co.th


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