Monday, August 7, 2017

"An Asian equivalent of the Suez or Panama canals"

The plan the generals and businessmen had in mind is one of the most ambitious and transformational infrastructure megaprojects ever contemplated in Asia -- construction of a $28 billion, 135km shipping canal across Thailand's narrow Isthmus of Kra to link the Pacific and Indian oceans.

An Asian equivalent of the Suez or Panama canals, the so-called Kra Canal would slice through the Malay peninsula some 800km south of Bangkok and about 200km north of Thailand's border with Malaysia, linking the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea at roughly the same latitude as the resort island of Phuket.

The canal's purpose would be to bypass the narrow, traffic-choked, piracy-prone and strategically sensitive Malacca Strait, the world's busiest trade route, which links China, Japan and other East Asian nations with the oil fields of the Middle East and major markets in Europe, Africa and India.


Although Thailand's Prime Minister, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, has said that the Kra Canal is not on his ruling junta's agenda, the Nikkei Asian Review has confirmed that some of the country's most influential figures -- including retired military chiefs, politicians, academics and leading businessmen with close links to China -- are urging him to change his mind.

They believe that if Prayuth can be persuaded to approve a feasibility study, the canal can be funded in large part through China's multibillion-dollar Belt and Road and New Maritime Silk Road infrastructure initiatives