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

Official: S. Sudan President, Rebel Leader to Meet in Tanzania

Talks part of effort to end conflict in country that has left more than 10,000 people dead, displaced more than 1.5 million others More

Dutch Deny Link to Mystery Submarine Off Sweden

Netherlands denies Russian claim that 'foreign vessel' photographed in waters off Sweden could be Dutch More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles 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.
China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Lawi
X
William Ide
October 20, 2014 10:23 AM
China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Nigeria Agrees to Cease-Fire With Boko Haram

Islamist militant group Boko Haram and the Nigerian government have agreed to a cease-fire. The Nigerian government issued an order Friday, telling all military chiefs "to comply with the cease-fire agreement in all theaters of operations. Why now and the significance of the agreement are questions on some people’s minds. VOA's Mariama Diallo reports.
Video

Video Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

The offensive by Islamic State militants against the northern Syrian city of Kobani has caused hundreds of thousands of residents to flee to Turkey. They receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from the town of Suruc a few kilometers from the border.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.

All About America

AppleAndroid