Chinese Embassy in Bangkok Denies Refusal to Invest in Thai Bullet Train Project
BANGKOK -† China’s embassy in Bangkok has issued a statement saying that it did not participate in any negotiations on Thailand’s plan to build a high-speed rail line connecting its capital Bangkok with the northern city of Chiang Mai.
China’s embassy issued the statement after news reports in Thailand, citing Thai transportation minister Prajin Juntong, said that China rejected the investment proposal after talks on a plan to build a railway from China’s Kunming to Thailand broke down, Chinese online news service “The Paper” said Friday.
The Paper also cited the statement as claiming that the reports on the failed talks were made based on “fake information.” A new round of China-Thailand railway talks will be held in Kunming next month, the statement said.
In its report Friday, the Paper cited an earlier report by Japanese economic newspaper Nihon Keizai Shimbun, a news publication of Nikkei, as saying that transport ministers from Japan and Thailand will soon sign a railway cooperation agreement in Tokyo.
“Unlike previous pacts, the one inked by Japan’s Akihiro Ohta and Thai counterpart Prajin Juntong will specify bullet trains,” the Nikkei report said, explaining that the deal will focus on a plan to link the Thai capital to Chiang Mai with a 680-kilometer rail line using Japan’s “shinkansen” system.
It will be the first time the Japanese bullet train system is introduced in Thailand, the Japanese report said.
A high-speed rail project for the same route was in the works under then-Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra before last May’s military coup, according to the report.
The junta that took power initially scrapped those plans but had a change of heart after Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, the new prime minister, rode a bullet train between Tokyo and Osaka on a visit to Japan in February, the Nikkei report said.
But the report cast doubt on the commercial viability of a high-speed rail line between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, noting that the northern Thailand city has a population of less than 200,000 people.
The line “is unlikely to enjoy the hefty business travel seen between Tokyo and Osaka and would likely struggle as a stand-alone venture,” the report said.
“Much will depend on Thailand’s ability to present a convincing business plan with other features, such as real estate development along the rail corridor,” the report said.
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