The road to rural success
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The road to rural success

A scenic stretch of royally-initiated Chaloem Burapha Chonlathit Road meanders along the coast in Chanthaburi. (Department of Rural Road photo)
A scenic stretch of royally-initiated Chaloem Burapha Chonlathit Road meanders along the coast in Chanthaburi. (Department of Rural Road photo)

When His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great thought of ways to improve the quality of life of his people, particularly residents in remote villages, he realised the link between new roads and better living.

Throughout his 70 years on the throne, King Rama IX initiated many projects to build roads across the country, believing they would not only take travellers to destinations, but would also lead people to live healthier lives.

Roads are a key form of infrastructure and play an important role in boosting local economies as they facilitate the transport of goods and turn little-known areas into tourist attractions.

These transport developments, which are largely thanks to King Rama IX, are still vivid in the memories of Thai people, even though he passed away three years ago.

The Department of Rural Roads, which oversees 48,000 kilometres of roads countrywide, worked with the late King to improve villagers' lives by building and upgrading roads.

Although King Rama IX passed away on Oct 13, 2016, officials have continued his work to give faraway areas better access to the national transportation network.

One of the department's major jobs is to build roads linking areas under the late King's development projects.

So far, it has already built up to 200km of roads to these areas, including the well-known Ao Khung Kraben in tambon Khlong Khut in Chanthaburi's Tha Mai district.

The road to Ao Khung Kraben not only serves as a way to access the area, but is also viewed as a scenic route.

It has become the model for a new project which the department calls the "Royal Coast Scenic Route", which will cover more than 1,000km from Samut Sakhon in the Central Plains to Sungai Kolok district in the southernmost province of Narathiwat.

"It will be the longest coastal road in the world," the department said.

They believe that it will become another major road which will bring economic prosperity to people along the route, and which will carry on the late King's work on rural development.

King Rama IX initiated the Ao Khung Kraben project 38 years ago in a move to restore the degraded mangrove forest, improve the conservation of marine life and support the careers of coastal fishermen and farmers, all of whom exist within the same ecosystem covering 2,000 rai of land.

The department helped the late King by building a road to the area in 2009, which was later named "Chaloem Burapha Chonlathit".

The 111km eastern coastal road links three coastal provinces together, stretching from Rayong to Chanthaburi and Trat to the east.

The road starts at Highway No. 3161 near the statue of renowned poet Sunthon Phu in Rayong's Klaeng district, runs along the coastlines of Rayong and Chanthaburi and terminates in Trat.

It is the "most beautiful scenic route in Thailand", based on other scenic roads in foreign countries, the department said.

The late King not only inspired the officials to think of roads in terms of economy, but also in terms of aesthetic value.

Motorists can appreciate the beauty of the road as it runs parallel to the sea. The road has also become a favourite among cyclists, and bicycle lanes were also built along the route.

When the route starts to attract more tourists, it will become another source of revenue for locals, the department said.

The department is preparing to urge villagers to sell products made in their neighbourhoods at certain points along the route.

It is also currently building another, similar road to continue the late King's intention to improve the lives of Southerners.

The new road, which spans a distance of 1,000km, aims to boost both the economy and tourism, support the government's Southern Economic Corridor scheme, and turn villages into tourist attractions. The first phase of the construction of the section of road from Samut Songkhram to Chumphon, worth 5.1 billion baht, is making good progress.

Workers have already finished building over half of this 658km stretch. This road is expected to open within the next three years. Officials will soon move into the second phase by conducting a detailed study of another 600km section from Chumphon to Songkhla.

They are also planning the third phase, which includes the last two sections -- a road from Songkhla to Sungai Kolok and the other from Samut Sakhon to Samut Songkhram.

His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great successfully turned this vision into a mission as he helped improve the lives of his people.

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