Land Bridge project to benefit all southerners, Srettha says

Land Bridge project to benefit all southerners, Srettha says

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin arrives at Laem Son National Park in tambon Muang Kluang of Ranong's Kapoe district to inspect a construction site for the Land Bridge megaproject on Monday. (Photo: Government House)
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin arrives at Laem Son National Park in tambon Muang Kluang of Ranong's Kapoe district to inspect a construction site for the Land Bridge megaproject on Monday. (Photo: Government House)

RANONG: The government is confident that its 1-trillion-baht Land Bridge megaproject will bring substantial benefits to the entire southern region, not just the province, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin insisted on Monday.

The government kicked off its official trip to the Andaman region on Monday, starting with Ranong, a site of the megaproject.

It marks the first official trip to the project site after Mr Srettha wrapped up his roadshow to foreign investors despite growing warnings from critics about the project's environmental impact.

Mr Srettha, Interior Minister Anutin Charnvirakul and Transport Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit made a stop at Laem Son National Park in Kapoe district to inspect a construction site for the project.

They then moved to Laem Ao Ang in Muang district to receive a report from the project committee. According to Mr Srettha, the report focused on areas that need to be reclaimed and a space plan for bridge piers to help the local fishery industry.

The project, aiming to develop a logistics network connecting Ranong province with Chumphon province, comprises deep-water ports in both provinces, a motorway cutting across the land to connect the two provinces and a railway system.

The 1-trillion-baht project, Mr Srettha said, also serves as a way to help ease congestion on the Strait of Malacca, considering that 60% of the oil used globally passes through the stretch of water.

"Constructing a megaproject that links the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea to the world is important to lessen congestion," the prime minister said. "It will also bring development to the country, as it can influence more foreign investors."

Despite insisting on the importance of communication with all groups -- including those who oppose the project, Mr Srettha said the project is now in its beginning stage, and more public hearings are needed.

He then said the government would further study the project's environmental impact in response to growing concerns over the matter as well as Ranong's wellness tourism prospects.

He also insisted that people will benefit from the project if it succeeds, adding that many opportunities outside of logistical operations will gravitate towards those in the Andaman region, not just Ranong.

"The Land Bridge project and the official trip are our attempt to do something for the locals," he said.

Responding to criticism by the opposition regarding its "lack of cost-effectiveness", Mr Suriya said the project actually has its proponents as many foreign investors are looking forward to bringing capital to the project.

The Rak Phato Network, a conservationist group in the Phato district of Chumphon province spearheading opposition to the land bridge project, had raised concerns about the project's impact on sea biodiversity and local fisheries.

In other news, Foreign Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara, chairman of the Southern Region Joint Public and Private Sector Consultative Committee, said that the cabinet is prepared to approve a 447-million-baht budget for 20 Quick Win projects in the Andaman region during the mobile meeting on Tuesday.

A protest sign against the Land Bridge megaproject is seen in Chumphon's Phato district. Phusadee Arunmas

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