Sino-Thai railway deal 'on track'

Sino-Thai railway deal 'on track'

Somkid denies hiccough over rubber sale

Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, the economy czar, assures the media on Wednesday that the Thai-Chinese rail project will continue despite problems with parts of the agreement. (Photo by Thanarak Khunton)
Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, the economy czar, assures the media on Wednesday that the Thai-Chinese rail project will continue despite problems with parts of the agreement. (Photo by Thanarak Khunton)

The Sino-Thai railway project will still go ahead though efforts must be made to ensure the scheme will not put the country at a disadvantage, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon says. 

His comment came after Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said earlier that a memorandum of cooperation (MoC) signing between the two countries, slated for today, would be shelved, pending a new agreement on China's purchase of Thai rubber, which is included in the package. 

However, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said Wednesday the report was untrue, saying the signing is likely to go ahead today in Bangkok as scheduled. 

Gen Prawit said the project will not be postponed, though some aspects are subject to further negotiations.

The deputy premier also stressed the joint railway development must be fair to both countries in terms of the benefits to be shared and Thailand must not be put at a disadvantage.

The project comprises two connecting railways: one from Bangkok to Nong Khai through Kaeng Khoi (in Saraburi) and Nakhon Ratchasima; and the other from Kaeng Khoi to Map Ta Phut (in Rayong). The two routes will cover 867km in total and cost 350 billion baht.

Meanwhile, Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn confirmed Wednesday the dual-track railway agreement is expected to be signed at the ninth cooperation meeting between the Thai and Chinese governments on the rail project in Bangkok today.

It would be signed along with rice and rubber purchase deals with Beijing. 

In the package, China will buy one million tonnes of new rice and 200,000 tonnes of rubber from Thailand. 

The rice deal has been agreed upon, but the deal on the rubber needs further negotiations, Ms Apiradi said. 

Ms Apiradi said the rice deal will be signed by the Foreign Trade Department and the China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corporation (Cofco), a Chinese state-owned food conglomerate.

It will be taken from the new rice stockpile and quote market prices, though the types of grain will be stipulated later, she said, adding delivery would be completed by next year.

Mr Arkhom said the ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of an operation control centre under the Sino-Thai railway development project will be held at the Chiang Rak Noi train station in Pathum Thani on Dec 19 as scheduled. 

Meanwhile, Thailand and Japan have joined together in setting up a Climate Change Technology Transfer Centre to battle the effects of climate change, says Science and Technology Minister Pichet Durongkaveroj.

He told the media after a trip to Japan led by Mr Somkid last week that his ministry had secured a cooperation deal with Japan to boost Thailand's capacity for climate change mitigation.

He said Japan agreed to offer technology transfer, particularly in the agricultural sector. "We have to learn more about technology to mitigate the impact of climate change on crops, which are sensitive to weather patterns. Japan is willing to help us develop appropriate technology for both adaptation and mitigation," he said.

He said other technology to be offered under the deal includes zero-carbon emission technology used in the transport and manufacturing industry.

Thailand has made a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20-25% by the year 2030 through increasing use of renewable energy and expansion of the railway system.

Mr Pichet said he had invited Japanese food entrepreneurs to join the country's FoodInnopolis, a hub for research and innovation on food technology at the Science Park in Pathum Thani province.

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