Kunming Railway Station. China hopes to link it to Asean. Source: Wikipedia
Beijing and Bangkok have agreed the first phase of a planned high-speed railway link costing 179 billion baht (US$5.15 billion), according to the Thai transport minister.
China hopes to connect its south-western city of Kunming to Thailand via Laos, while the Thai junta hopes to upgrade its creaking train network. The junta is hoping that infrastructural development will boost the economy amid disappointing export figures and weakening consumer confidence, while distracting attention from the military’s increasingly tyrannical rule.
The agreement on the project comes after months of negotiations, many of which were tense, sources said.
Under the deal, Thailand would retain ownership rights for the entire project, it was announced.
But Samart Ratchapolsitte, a former Democrat Party MP, said the project was unlikely to begin construction as scheduled.
He said the government should plan development around the stations to spur on the economy.
Other observers said the areas chosen for construction of the first phase were too far from the population centres.
There have reportedly been sticking points over the train project on issues like the currency of payment.
“We will have to work through any disagreements or misunderstandings,” Arkhom told the media.
Beijing is tightening its grip on Bangkok as relations with Washington have come under increasing strain since the May 2014 coup. There have been an increasing number of diplomatic visits and joint military exercises with China.