Thailand to speed up train link with China


Thailand has pledged to get its high-speed train through Isan running in time to link up with the line that will connect with the track being built through Laos to China.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha told Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Friday in Beijing that the country would accelerate construction of the Thai-Chinese train project to meet the planned schedule, deputy government spokesman Lt Gen Werachon Sukondhapatipak said.

The first high-speed trains along a 600-kilometre stretch from Bangkok to Nong Khai are scheduled to begin service in 2023. But construction has been delayed through more than 25 rounds of negotiations between Thailand and China over four years, largely on loan details.

To date, hardly any actual construction has taken place, save for a face-saving 3.5km stretch in Pak Chong district of Nakhon Ratchasima that is more than a year behind schedule.

The Thai track will meet another line from China to Vientiane at the Thai-Lao border. Thailand, Laos and China on Thursday signed a memorandum of cooperation for the rail link as part of a transport network of the Belt and Road Initiative.

Lt Gen Werachon also said the Thai and Chinese prime ministers would push for bilateral trade to achieve the target of US$140 billion in 2021. Thai-Sino trade was worth $80 billion last year, according to the ASEAN Information Centre of the Public Relations Department.

Thailand also expressed support for the 16-country Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement to conclude this year, the deputy spokesman added. The RCEP includes all ASEAN states plus China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. It was originally scheduled to be signed in late 2015.

The meeting took place on the sidelines of the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing starting on Friday.


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