CHINA has signed a memorandum of understanding with Thailand to build 867-kilometre (542 miles) double-track railway from Nong Khai on the Laos border to the Thai industrialised eastern seaboard, Reuters reports.
The move, signed on the sidelines of a two-day regional summit in Bangkok, is seen as consolidating China's influence in a country that has had strong ties with the United States, but which have cooled since the military coup in May.
"China will be responsible for the construction and development of the rail network and Thailand will take part in preparing the groundwork for construction," Thai Transport Minister Prajin Junthong.
China has provisionally agreed with Laos to build a railway from Kunming through Laos, with the aim of connecting with Thailand. China will also develop another, 133-kilometre rail line linking the central province of Saraburi to Bangkok, about 108 kilometres away. Construction would begin in 2016, said Air Marshal Prajin.
Earlier this month, Thailand's military-stacked legislature approved a preliminary agreement on the China deal, putting the value at THB350 billion (US$10.66 billion).
Mayasu Hosumi, president of the Japan External Trade Organisation in Thailand (JETRO), said the rail network was "indispensable for the enhancement of production networks" in the region.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang attended the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) summit in Bangkok alongside prime ministers and presidents from Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar and Thailand.
Premier Li is the most high-profile foreign leader to visit Thailand since the coup, signalling, Thailand says, its return to normal following months of political unrest, said Reuters.
Source : HKSG.