Thailand mulling megaprojects to boost border development

The Transport Minister is authorizing a study on linking border regions to the Kingdom’s advanced development zones as a means to reduce disparities with eight road-and-rail megaprojects under consideration.

Minister of Transport Saksayam Chidchob said double-track rail projects would be used in conjunction with motorways to link the regions. The study would complement another research project commissioned by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on how to integrate the Kingdom’s 4,100 miles of highways with its rail system.

Thailand’s wealth and development are greatest around Bangkok, the Eastern Economic Corridor adjacent to the capital, and a few special economic zones. The Kingdom has been wrestling, however, with economic and development disparities.

Disparities are most acute in border regions. The poorest of those regions are the northeastern and southern borders. Despite the Board of Investment’s policies to grant more generous incentives to investors willing to locate in border regions, relatively few have chosen those areas. One reason is a lack of infrastructure providing connectivity.

Minister Saksayam is proposing three North-South motorway-double track rail routes with a combined distance of 1,628 miles, and five East-West projects with a combined length of 1,435 miles.

Linking the advanced economic zones with border areas would help reduce disparities in development and increase cross-border trade with Thailand’s neighbors Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, and Malaysia.

The ripple effects could be to boost business, trade, and development across all of mainland Southeast Asia. Besides seeking greater self-sufficiency to raise its own resilience, Thailand subscribes to regional development goals to improve the lives of all peoples in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

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