CLMVT connectivity and Thai-Chinese high-speed railway

Thai National Shippers’ Council published White Paper 2022 on CLMVT (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand) Connectivity Multimodal Transportation in the Next Normal, or “Fast car-boat-rail-link” transport policy recommendations and guidelines.
White Paper contains data necessary for analysis of transportation costs, and the ways to reduce the costs; challenges and opportunities each form of domestic transport presents. Again, as in previous plans, Thailand is connecting its’ transportation infrastructure development to Chinese One Belt, One Road strategy, hoping to create in Thailand main transportation hub, which will connect SEA countries to China, via road, rail and sea transport. Plans including construction of roads along the Greater Mekong Subregion Economic Corridors; and the construction of high-speed railway linking Thailand to China, via Laos.

BANGKOK — Thailand’s recent pledge to finish a long-delayed high-speed rail line linking it to China through Laos within six years is reigniting doubts about the country’s commitment and whether the $12 billion megaproject will pay off.
Transport and Foreign Affairs ministries officials told reporters July 6 Thailand will complete the 609-kilometer line from the capital, Bangkok, to the Lao border at Nong Khai, now only 5% built, by 2028. Nong Khai is just across the Mekong River from the Lao capital of Vientiane, where a high-speed train to the Lao-China border started service in December.
With trains running at a maximum speed of 250 km/h, the new line will collapse the time the Bangkok-Nong Khai journey takes now on existing standard-gauge tracks.
The project is part of Beijing’s long-term plans to link China’s Yunnan province to the bustling ports of Singapore via high-speed trains cutting through Laos, Thailand and Malaysia in a key piece of its grand Belt and Road initiative.
Greg Raymond, a lecturer at Australian National University studying China’s growing connections with mainland Southeast Asia, says:
…Thailand is also wary of any moves, the high-speed rail line included, that might draw China too close for comfort.
They don’t want to be drawn in, really, to a Beijing-centered economy if they think it’s going to reduce their freedom of maneuver. They’re always seeking to balance their relationships; they don’t want to become too dependent on any of them. This is the classic hedging behavior, but it’s very strong with Thailand.
July 17, 2022

The contract governing the Thai-Chinese high-speed railway construction may need to be renegotiated, as construction of the project’s first phase between Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasima is now falling behind schedule, a source at the Transport Ministry said.
The first phase, which is divided into 14 different contracts, is only 15% completed when it should have been 37%, according to the source, citing information reported at a meeting of the Thai-Chinese joint committee on the project’s implementation.
The project’s 50.6-billion-baht main contract — known as Contract 2.3, which covers the railway system, rolling stocks, staff training and technology transfer for the 253-kilometre line from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima — has a deadline of March 2026, said the source.
Under the current circumstances, the contract will have to be extended, said the source.
Construction of the Thai-Chinese high-speed railway. (Photo: Ministry of Transport)
The project’s 1st phase (Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima) was supposed to be completed in 2026, while the 2nd phase, a 356km section from Nakhon Ratchasima to the border province of Nong Khai, was initially expected to be completely built three to four years after the 1st phase is completed, said the source.
As for the plan to construct a new Thai-Lao Friendship bridge, China has expressed its willingness to help in every process, he said, adding that the new bridge’s location will not be far from the existing ones.
Earlier last month, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his Lao counterpart, Phankham Viphavanh, had agreed in principle that both nations should build more Friendship bridges to further spur economic growth.
The informal agreement was reportedly reached while the two leaders attended a ceremony held on Oct 28 to lay the foundation stones for the fifth Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge.
8 Nov 2022

Comment: Hopefully, Thailand won’t let itself fall into Chinese One Belt, One Road strategy without any exit plan. Too many examples around, from Sri Lanka to Africa, how bad this One Big Python strategy might become, for countries which were lured into the trap. As Russians put it: “Enter for 1 coin; but Exit for 2”. Or as famous song put it: ”You can check out any moment, but you can never leave”.
Like many other people, I believed China to be millenniums-long strategies genius, but somehow, recalling recent and bygone events, I changed my mind. Let’s recall One Child policy, ruinous for generations of Chinese people, and for China’s demography. Let’s recall recent “strategy”, or sheer idiocy (or was it testing ground?), called “zero-covid”. There are many other utterly failed strategies and plans, in the long history of China. Much better and safer for any country to steer clear of China and its’ One Belt. There are many other, much more safe, belts and roads around.



My name is Mikhail Voytenko, I’m Russian, professional merchant marine navigator, by education and former experience. I own and run Maritime Bulletin website for more than 10 years. I've been involved in solving a number of piracy hijack cases, including the hijack of ro-ro FAINA, loaded with tanks. It was me who made public, and unravel, freighter ARCTIC SEA mystery. I've been also closely involved in a number of maritime disaster, one of them being MSC FLAMINIA major fire.