Land Bridge roadshow to woo Chinese

Land Bridge roadshow to woo Chinese

Transport Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit said yesterday that his ministry will send a Land Bridge megaproject roadshow to China next month.

Mr Suriya said Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi, who recently visited Thailand, stated that China’s government is interested in the project, which led to the Thai government’s roadshow preparations.

The ministry will submit the project report to the Chinese embassy in Thailand next week, which will pass the report to the Chinese government before the roadshow, he said.

The 1-trillion-baht project, connecting Ranong with Chumphon in southern Thailand, is expected to develop a logistics network while helping ease congestion in the Strait of Malacca in the next 10 years.

The project comprises deep-water ports in both provinces, a motorway cutting across the land to connect the two provinces and a railway system.

Mr Suriya said research and study on the project conducted by the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning (OTP) is almost complete.

The project’s environment and health impact assessment (EHIA) report is expected to be completed this year, he added.

Many foreign investors from many countries have their eyes on the project, said Mr Suriya, including Dubai Ports (DP) World, a multinational logistics company that showed interest during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last month.

DP World is planning to visit the construction site sometime this month, he said.

“The key factor that makes the investors interested in the project is the 10% internal rate of return [IRR] they will receive from the project,” said the transport minister.

Despite the positive feedback from the foreign investors, many experts have expressed concern regarding the project.

Wiwat Jankingthong, manager of Hat Yai University’s Business Innovation Research Centre, said that based on its study, people have mixed opinions about the project.

Those who support the Land Bridge said that it would help improve the economy, but some among them were also concerned over aspects of it, such as if it will overly benefit groups or people with vested interests.

Those against the project are concerned about its environmental impact and financial costs.

Some people want the government to conduct a well-rounded survey on the project to lessen environmental and livelihood impacts.

Somkid Jatusripitak, former deputy prime minister, said in a seminar at Thammasat University yesterday that to stimulate the economy, the government should instead aim at long-term projects, like the Eastern Economic Corridor, as they can help more with the national stability.