Thai experts get on board Thai-Sino rail

Thai experts get on board Thai-Sino rail

The 179-billion-baht Thai-Sino high-speed rail project, the construction contract for which had been granted to China, will now be open to input from Thai engineers, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam says.

A request had been made by the Engineering Institute of Thailand (EIT) for Thai engineers to work on the project after they had felt put out by a government decision allowing the Chinese full control of the project's construction.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha had invoked his power under Section 44 to waive certain regulations to tackle stumbling blocks in the Thai-Chinese high-speed train project.

The order allowed Chinese engineers and architects to work on design and construction without obtaining licences as well as waiving rules for the procurement of the high-speed train system for the 252.5-km Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima route.

One reason why Gen Prayut decided to relax the rules was because Chinese architects and engineers could not work on the project because of Thailand's Engineers Act, which requires foreign professionals to pass an examination for a licence to work here.

Speaking ahead of a meeting with the Council of Engineers, the Architect Council of Thailand, and the EIT to address their concerns, Mr Wissanu said Thai engineers would now be able to learn from their Chinese counterparts.

The deputy prime minister said the Section 44 order was simply a vehicle for pushing through the policy; the finer details of the contracts need to be discussed among representatives from the professional bodies working on the project.

Thanes Weerasiri, president of the EIT, said after the meeting with Mr Wissanu the government agreed to forward the proposed methods of facilitating knowledge transfer to the prime minister for consideration.

"I feel better knowing the government listened to our concerns. The EIT will gather opinions about the proposed mechanisms to facilitate the knowledge transfer," he said.

Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith assured yesterday that Thai engineers would be included in the construction of the joint rail development, adding that it will be made obligatory in the construction contracts that this will be the case.

Chatchai Thipsunari, permanent secretary for transport, said the Council of Engineers and the Architect Council of Thailand insisted training would be provided to Chinese engineers required to undergo tests.

The two bodies will meet today to discuss and design such tests and keep the ministry informed, he said.

The use of Section 44 to bypass legal hurdles has drawn fierce opposition.

Mana Nimitmongkol, director of the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand (ACT), posted on his Facebook page that the difference between the train project of this government and that of the Yingluck Shinawatra government is that the previous government's project was open to legal examination and underwent international bidding to get the best offer.

Activist Srisuwan Janya yesterday lodged a petition with the Office of Ombudsman asking it to hold an inquiry into the issue and forward it to the Constitutional Court and the Administrative Court for intervention.

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