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

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer 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.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs