ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
China urges Thailand on Malaysia-Laos link
Mr. Suthep told Chinese officials Thailand would need cheap loans from Beijing to finance the construction of the section which would form part of the railway linking China's southern region with Laos, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. He said talks about the Thailand section began in July when he visited China.
A broad agreement was reached that China would build a new railway from the northeastern province of Nong Khai to Bangkok connecting with the rail system in Laos. Parliament has endorsed the negotiating framework. Mr. Suthep went to China last week to discuss the details and seek an extension of the route from Bangkok to Padang Besar in Malaysia. China agreed to the proposal.
The two countries also agreed construction should take four years. The completed railway would provide new public transport facilities and assist with the development of areas linked to it. Thailand wants a loan deal similar to that given to Laos for the construction of its part of the Asian railway.
China responded by saying it wanted the Thai parliament to quickly approve the details of the project so that a memorandum of understanding could be signed between March and April next year and construction could begin before the end of 2011.
Mr. Suthep said the 480km-long railway section in Laos would cost 450 million baht a kilometre because the country would have to build 190km of tunnels and 90km of bridges. The cost of the Thai section would be much cheaper despite a new bridge having to be built across the Mekong River because most of the route is flat terrain. Mr. Suthep also discussed the issue with Lao Deputy Prime Minister Somsavat Lengsavad who supervises the railway project in Laos. Mr. Somsavat urged Thailand to finalise the location of the new bridge so Laos could proceed with its part of the project.
As well as the Nong Khai-Bangkok-Padang Besar route, Thailand is seeking China's cooperation to build a high-speed train system from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, Bangkok to Rayong and Bangkok to Ubon Ratchathani, Transport Ministry inspector Chula Sukmanop said.
Thai ransport and finance ministry staff are due to meet tomorrow to discuss details of the plan. China initially sought a 50-year concession for a Thai-Sino joint venture company to operate the railways but Thai law allows for a maximum of only 30 years.
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