Land Bridge plan draws critics

Land Bridge plan draws critics

Project opponents to meet Srettha in Ranong

An artist's interpretation of a deep-sea port in the land bridge project. (Picture supplied)
An artist's interpretation of a deep-sea port in the land bridge project. (Picture supplied)

The government will give serious consideration to concerns voiced by groups opposed to its Land Bridge megaproject, according to Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, who will today lead a visit to the project's planned site in Ranong where a mobile cabinet is being held tomorrow.

He admitted the government might have communicated better with potential international investors to convince them of its economic potential, and that it has failed to win trust in the ambitious project among Thais increasingly concerned about possible negative impacts on their communities from the 1-trillion-baht construction.

"This visit is an effort to demonstrate to those people living in the surrounding areas that they are actually considered the most important part [of the project]," said Mr Srettha as he departed Chiang Mai to return to Bangkok yesterday.

The PM was responding to growing calls by critics for the government to listen to their concerns about the impact of the Land Bridge project, aimed at developing a logistics network connecting Ranong with Chumphon.

The project comprises deep-water ports in both provinces, a motorway cutting across the land to connect the two provinces and a railway system.

The PM will visit Laem Son National Park in Kapoe district of Ranong today, which has been designated as a connecting point between the two seaports, one in the Gulf of Thailand side and other in the Andaman Sea.

"Even though the government is confident the land bridge project will bring substantial benefits to the country and its people, it is still important to improve its communication with all groups, both those who support and oppose the project," said Mr Srettha.

The Rak Phato Network, a conservationist group in Phato district of Chumphon spearheading opposition to the land bridge, meanwhile, said it intends to meet the PM during his visit.

Tomorrow's mobile cabinet meeting will be this year's first and the government's second outside Government House.

The group has submitted through Chumphon's provincial governor a formal request to meet the PM, according to a statement signed by Somchok Chungchaturan, a core member of the group.

The network yesterday led members of the media on a study tour of the seaside site of Ranong where one of the deep-sea ports will be built.

A forum was also organised there to allow the locals and activists to voice their opinions on the matter.

Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, a list-MP for the United Thai Nation Party, meanwhile, echoed Mr Srettha's promise to listen to opinions from all sides.

Officials are still in the process of drafting a report to submit ahead of an environmental impact assessment (EIA), so the government has time to listen to and act on input from more people and groups, he said.

"I believe the government is trying to see this project from various perspectives, not just in terms of the construction of deep-sea ports in the Gulf of Thailand and Andaman Sea," he said.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara will today head a meeting of the Joint Public and Private Sector Consultative Committee to discuss new development projects proposed for six southern provinces: Krabi, Trang, Phangnga, Phuket, Ranong and Satun.

At present, these projects have a combined investment value of more than 750 million baht, according to a source. Kongsak Khoopongsakorn, president of the Phuket Chamber of Commerce, said the province looks set to propose two of the six new developments.

They are a project to build six marinas, one each in the six provinces, and a premium local product development project which requires about 33 million baht in funding, he said. Ranong is expected to seek the renovation of Ranong-Kawthaung port as one of its three development proposals, said a source.

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