News / Asia

Thai Military Approves $23 Billion for Express Rail Links

Thailand’s government wants to upgrade the national rail system. Venders pull back awnings and vegetables as a train arrives in Maeklong, in Samut Songkhram province, Aug. 16, 2012.
Thailand’s government wants to upgrade the national rail system. Venders pull back awnings and vegetables as a train arrives in Maeklong, in Samut Songkhram province, Aug. 16, 2012.
Ron Corben

Thailand's military government this week approved a $23 billion, eight-year plan to upgrade the national railway system, marking another effort to boost and reshape the economy.

The eight-year spending program covers a broad upgrade to much of the rail network, including high-speed rail eventually linking up with China. It will connect to Thailand’s industrialized eastern seaboard and northeastern regions.

The plans indicate how authorities are preparing for the ASEAN Economic Community that, in 2015, will begin dropping trade barriers to boost Southeast Asian nations’ economic links, said Luxman Attapich, an Asian Development Bank economist.

"The military administration and their advisers really value connectivity,” Attapich said. “They are thinking about regional cooperation and connectivity within the region."

Expanding ties with China

Since seizing power May 22 after months of political turmoil, the military has stepped up economic and business ties with China and looked into increasing agricultural exports, especially rice, under government-to-government deals.

The previous civilian government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra also launched a transportation spending bill. But the $65 billion program was criticized for a lack of transparency and courts later invalidated the plan.

Many hope the military will provide greater transparency in overseeing projects, said Adrian Dunn, CEO of the investment management group Brooker Dunn Asset Advisory.

"What people are waking up to is that these people may actually have some quite sensible plans for the economy,” Dunn said at a recent economics conference, “and that you can actually spend for instance 20 percent less on infrastructure and get 10 percent more if you don't spend 45 percent in bribes."   

The military has made the economy a priority after Thailand fell into recession in the first quarter as confidence slipped amid political conflict and anti-government protests.

Criticism of the government and its policies has been muted since authorities effectively outlawed public dissent. But a former finance minister cautions the junta against focusing too much on economic reforms. Instead, it should ensure political stability ahead of general elections, he said.

"There's a great temptation by both the private sector and by those in power to try to push through all kinds of large projects, said Korn Chatikavanij, who served in the Democrat Party-led government until 2011. “That's well and good, but I don't think it's the most productive use of their time. I don't think their job is to make economic decisions. Their job is to correct a political system that wasn't functioning."

But the military is pressing ahead with spending on new rail locomotives, major highway renovation and electric rail routes in Bangkok.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: william li from: canada
August 01, 2014 10:48 AM
good job my Thailand brothers. there is great economical potential in this high speed train project, don't give up. the high speed train will bring us closer.
Burma should also learn from it. We should connect all south Asian countries with China by high speed train

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festivali
X
April 24, 2015 4:09 AM
Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Keeping Washington Airspace Safe Is Tall Order

Being the home of all three branches of the U.S. federal government makes Washington, D.C. the prime target for those who want to make their messages and ideas heard. Unfortunately, many of them choose to deliver them in unorthodox ways, including from the air, as a recent incident clearly showed involving a gyrocopter landing on the Capitol’s West Lawn. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

VOA Blogs