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Thailand: Buying High-Speed Rail with Rice and Rubber

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (second from left in front) and Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra (left) visit a Chinese high-speed railway exhibition on Saturday at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center in Bangkok

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (second from left in front) and Thailand’s Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra (left) visit a Chinese high-speed railway exhibition on Saturday at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center in Bangkok

BANGKOK– Thailand is to hand over rice and rubber in part-payment for its new high-speed rail system, it’s reported.

 

The country’s transport minister is expected to formally agree the barter deal with Chinese premier Li Keqiang on Friday, according to the Nation.

The project to link Bangkok with Nong Khai, close to the Laos border, is part of a proposed 2m baht ($30bn, £19bn) infrastructure investment program to part-financed with agricultural products. The railway is one day envisaged to link Thailand with the Southern Chinese province of Kunming, via the Laos capital Vientiane.

 

However, fine details remain to be thrashed out between the countries. The Bangkok Post says even the transport minister isn’t optimistic of the scheme’s success.

It also quotes a State Railway of Thailand official as saying red tape would get in the way and pointing out that a 2005 deal to buy diesel locos, freight wagons and spares with dried lamyai (a lychee-like fruit) and rice was finally scrapped this year, when the Thai government coughed up the cash instead.

 

According to Thailand’s transport planners, four major high-speed railways will be built to link the capital Bangkok to Chiang Mai, Nong Khai, Rayong and Hua Hin.

China has the advantages in technology and costs in railway construction. And it boasts a good record in completing rail projects on time, said Gao Wenkuan, economic and commercial counselor with the Chinese embassy in Thailand.

Gao added both countries share a strong aspiration to cooperate in the railway sector.

Former Thai prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva was quoted by Xinhua News Agency in an earlier report as saying: “There are plenty of opportunities for everyone to invest in Thailand. But for the rail system, it is obvious that China is ahead of others since it has proven its capabilities in recent years.”

Before arriving in Bangkok on Friday, Premier Li had just wrapped up a tightly scheduled tour in Brunei, where he also attended a series of meetings with East Asian leaders.

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