Thailand and U.S. pledge funding for regional infrastructure

Thailand’s cabinet pledged $200 million in seed money for infrastructure and the United States, and other partners pledged to match it to develop and connect the Kingdom and Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, and Viet Nam – the regional grouping known as ACMECS.

ACMECS stands for the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy. The grouping is named after the three mighty rivers that flow through the five countries and into the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Thailand, and the South China Sea. It is a partnership focused on economic growth and reducing disparities.

The donors will deposit their contributions into the ACMECS Fund. The Fund was established last year at the ACMECS summit in Bangkok where the leaders of all five countries signed on to it. The contributions will support feasibility studies on transport and other infrastructure projects to facilitate connectivity and growth.

Lack of transport links has left sections of the five countries cut off from the advances and economic expansion that characterize the region as a whole.

“The contribution demonstrates Thailand’s real intention to drive infrastructure projects under the ACMECS’ master plan, which is instrumental in accelerating the economic and social development in ACMECS,” said Nathaporn Chatusripitak, a spokesman for Thailand’s finance minister.

In matching Thailand’s contribution, the United States will join with Australia, Japan, and South Korea.

Although all five countries have been posting solid economic growth figures, that growth is concentrated in a few urban areas and centers of industry. The economic and growth potential of rural and border areas remains mostly untapped.

ACMECS leaders believe a more extensive network of infrastructure could speed development in areas lagging behind. That development could reduce income and wealth disparities that have been plaguing the region for decades.