Thai government: No policy on construction of Kra Canal, nor is it a priority

Could the government be concerned about threats to security?

By Sulaiman Daud | February 12, 2018

It could be a major threat to Singapore’s economy or just another pie-in-the-sky idea, but there’s a new twist in the tale of Thailand’s Kra Canal project.

On Feb. 11, the Thai government spoke out publicly on the project for the first time in a long while.

According to Bernama, the Thai government officially does not have a policy on the Kra Canal, nor is it one of their priorities. Said government spokesman Lt. General Sansern Kaewkamnerd:

“There are still other ‘problems’ in the area, therefore they (the other problems) must be prioritised.”

Sansern added that Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha had insisted that his government did not view the Kra Canal as a priority.

New waterway

The Kra Canal is a proposed man-made canal that will link the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea.

Pic from Mothership.

As you can see from the map above, the Canal would represent a quicker option for ships traveling from the Middle East en route to China, bypassing Singapore completely.

That is, if it ever gets built.

Public response to private individuals?

The report also mentioned that Sansern’s statement was made in response to a “movement” led by influential figures in Thailand who are interested in seeing the project come to fruition.

This could be in reference to a group of ex-military, government-linked Thai individuals who formed a group called the Thai Canal Association for Study and Development (TCA for short).

Thais called to support S$38.2 billion Kra Canal construction that will bypass S’pore ports

In Sep. 2017, the TCA organised a conference in Bangkok, which was attended by businessmen with ties to China.

However during the event, some members of the TCA said that a feasibility study had to be conducted first.

For the umpteenth time, Kra Canal talk resurfaces again threatening to threaten S’pore ports

The group has been urging Thai citizens to share their thoughts about the project online.

However, Sansern specifically urged people living in southern Thailand to exercise caution regarding messages about the project as it could be misleading for the public.

According to Sansern, the government is still weighing the pros and cons of the canal.

Other problems

Sansern’s euphemistic mention of “other problems” and his statement to Southern Thais in particular could be a reference to the separatist movement in Southern Thailand.

Although the number of violent incidents has decreased in recent years, there was a recent bomb attack in a market in the Southern province of Yala on Jan. 22, 2018.

A large scale infrastructure project like the Kra Canal could be a high-priority target for a separatist attack. And even if it is completed, it would split the country in two and physically separate the troubled Southern provinces from the rest of Thailand.

Perhaps that’s why it’s not seen as a high-priority for the Thai government for now.

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Top image by LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images.

About Sulaiman Daud

Sulaiman believes that we can be heroes, if just for one day. His favourite Doctor is Peter Capaldi's Twelve. In his spare time he writes about film, pop-culture and international politics, which you are very welcome to read here.

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