The report by The Phuket News put forward the arguments in favour of the canal put forward by two key figures of the Thai Canal Association for Study and Development – Royal Thai Navy Adm (Rtd) Soopakorn Boonranadiloak and Pakdee Tanapura.
The pair, as guest speakers at a British Chamber of Commerce in Thailand (BCCT) Phuket Business Dinner event on Feb 1, confirmed that the association had filed a formal request to the current government to undertake a full feasibility study to make the Kra Canal a reality. (See story here.)
Since then the topic has gained momentum. The Bangkok Post followed up on Sunday (Feb 11) with confirmation from Government spokesman Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd that the government is currently reviewing the proposal.
However, Gen Sansern pointed out that the project was currently not a priority for the Thai government.
He also sagely pointed out for people to be wary of campaigns blankly saying that the project is going ahead. (See story here.)
In response, government news agencies in Malaysia and Singapore this week quickly ran their own truncated versions of this report highlighting these two facts, but omitting that Gen Sansern had confirmed that the Thai Government is reviewing the proposal.
What’s ironic is that Channel News Asia, owned by the Singapore Government, and The Straits Times – not once, but twice – both ran a story posted by Malaysian state news agency Bernama. (See stories here and here.)
Malaysia’s understanding of the importance of the Kra Canal is clear. It is the Maritime Institute of Malaysia that has forecast that the Strait of Malacca, already the busiest shipping lane in the world, will exceed its shipping capacity by 2025 – just seven years from now.
Hence Malaysia is currently ploughing ahead with expanding its facilities at Port Klang, east of Kuala Lumpur, where containers are planned to be loaded onto high-speed freight trains.
What is obvious from the press attention from Malaysia and Singapore is how heavily the negative aspects of the Kra Canal were highlighted in the stories they ran, which only served to highlight how important the project is to them.
For example, the reports stressed that Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha had “emphasized” that the Thai Government “did not have a policy” for the Kra Canal – an odd observation since the government is still only reviewing the latest proposal.
The reports also highlighted that Government Spokesperson Gen Sansern said that Thailand currently had other priorities – and did not currently have the funds to build the canal – another odd observation since Public-Private Partnerships and “build-operate-transfer” projects are how Thailand traditionally sources the funds for mega-projects, not paying wholesale out of pocket.
Also, while the reports by Thailand’s southern neighbours noted that Thailand is currently short of funds to build the canal, they also neglected to point out that only last year PM Prayut pushed through the B179-billion deal to build the high-speed rail link between Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasima. (See story here.)
In comparison, the Kra Canal at this stage is projected to cost B55bn.
The Kra Canal project does have a long way to go before becoming a reality, and many key concerns, including as The Phuket News readers have pointed out, environmental issues, must be addressed before Thailand takes the plunge.
On that note, one point that has not been made plain is that all ships entering and exiting the Strait of Malacca already pass Phuket in the 290 kilometres of water between here and the closest point on Sumatra.
To all this The Phuket News asks readers the simple question, “Should Thailand build the Kra Canal?”
Responses available in the poll are:
- Yes – the time is now, start building it.
- Yes – but only if approved via a full feasibility study and a full Environmental Impact Assessment, including public approval and feedback meetings, is conducted by a respected independent organisation.
- Not yet – growth in global shipping dictates that the Kra Canal will be needed sometime in the future, but not just yet.
- No – the entire project is a waste of taxpayer’s money and endangers the environment and tourism to the Andaman region.
To vote in the poll, click here.
If your preferred response is not listed, feel free to add it in the comments section below.
To see the results of our previous poll, which asked, “Do you believe in Bitcoin?”, click here.