Thai junta to order start to China high-speed rail scheme

Thailand’s military ruler will invoke a special executive order to allow construction to start on a long-delayed high-speed railway project with China.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha during a meeting with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in October 2016 (Wikimedia Commons)

The project has been held up for years while the parties negotiated over matters ranging from operating rights and loan terms to land development.

A Thai government spokesman said on 13 June that Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha (pictured), who heads the junta that has ruled Thailand since a May 2014 coup, will invoke Article 44, a security order that gives him the power to push through policy, Reuters reports. Prayuth will discuss the matter at a cabinet meeting next week.

The measure, dubbed the "dictators law", has been heavily criticized by rights groups, but government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said invoking Article 44 would clear hurdles such as building on protected land.

"This is why Article 44 is needed," he told reporters.

The $5.5bn first phase of the railway will be a 250-km line between Bangkok and the northeastern province of Nakorn Ratchasima.

Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said last month that construction would begin in August or September, according to Reuters.

The bigger plan is to build a 873-km rail line linking Thailand’s border with Laos to eastern ports and industrial zones.

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