B100bn plan to boost links with 6 nations
The government is now on track to turn Thailand into a transport hub for six countries in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), following a 100-billion-baht infrastructure development project in the Thai border provinces.
"Once construction of the facilities is complete, Thailand will become a major transit country among the GMS members," Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith told media on Friday.
The infrastructure includes a new double-track railway, bridges and roads as well as material transport centres for border provinces in Myanmar, China, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
The transport minister said the infrastructure will create "economic corridors" and faster logistical management for these six countries. The five border provinces will play an important role in linking Thailand with its neighbours, according to Mr Arkhom.
At the Chiang Khong border checkpoint in northern Chiang Rai province, the government has spent 85 billion baht developing a double-track railway from Denchai to Chiang Khong, and another 1.4 billion baht on building a goods transport centre.
Chiang Khong, which is known as a bustling border area, currently enjoys a trade surplus worth nearly 5 billion baht per year, according to Kamon Buranaphong, deputy chief of the Land Transport Department.
Chiang Khong is also part of the North-South Economic Corridor (NSEC), which links Thailand, Laos and southern China. To the west, the Mae Sot border checkpoint in Tak has been touted as a transnational route in the East-West Economic Corridor.
The Thai government has already built a 1.1-billion-baht bridge over the Moei River to relieve traffic congestion at the checkpoint. The bridge, which has already opened, is part of a larger plan to connect Mae Sot and Yangon, Myanmar and improve access to the Indian Ocean, the transport minister said.
On Thailand's eastern border with Cambodia, the government is building a bridge in Sa Kaeo's Aranyaprathet district, which will cross the Bhrom Hote Canal to access Poipet, Cambodia.
The bridge will be opened in 2021.
In Nong Khai province opposite Laos, 1 billion baht was spent build a bridge for cars and trains heading to Vientiane, as well as a train station and a goods transport facility, Mr Arkhom said.
At the Nakhon Phanom border checkpoint, the cabinet will be asked to approve a 68-billion-baht project to build a new double-track railway linking Ban Phai, Mukdahan and Nakhon Phanom in order to streamline the regional route from the northeastern border to the Laem Chabang Port in Chon Buri district, the transport minister said.