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Asia Minute: Rail Financing Gets Okay...In Thailand

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  The government has approved a deal to finance a multi-billion dollar rail project. Unfortunately for backers of the Honolulu rail plan, this particular construction is thousands of miles from Hawai‘i. It’s a deal announced this week in Thailand for a project that will eventually go to China. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.


Even in countries where the trains run on time, train construction projects are often delayed.

That’s certainly the case in Thailand, where plans to connect Bangkok all the way north past the Chinese border have lurched ahead at an unsteady speed.

On Tuesday, Thailand’s cabinet approved construction of the first phase of the railway project—and a finance plan of more than 5 billion dollars.

The country is headed by a military government—and the prime minister used an executive order to push through the latest plans for the train.

China is providing technical assistance on the project, but critics, including Thai engineers and architects, say there is not a clear agreement on technology transfer to local workers.

There are other complications—from cost estimates to development rights.

The first phase for the train tracks is a relatively short distance of a bit more than 150 miles north from the Thai capital.

The broader blueprint is ambitious – stretching from Bangkok to Laos and up to Kunming in southern China.

Eventually, China wants to have a Southeast Asia rail connection even beyond Thailand—through Malaysia and all the way to Singapore.

It’s all part of a broader regional Chinese transportation infrastructure plan the country calls its “Belt and Road Initiative.”

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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