Prime Minister spruiks trains and ports in Japanese visit


Prime Minister spruiks trains and ports in Japanese visit

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra led a high-level group of ministers in a visit to Japan and led the charge on attempting to interest Japanese investors to take a stake in Thailand’s planned high-speed train project as well as the development of the Dawei deep-water port in Myanmar.

The prime minister and her cabinet held a formal meeting with the new Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe and his senior ministers in Tokyo. During the meeting and later in various interviews with local news media, the Thai prime minister covered a wide range of subjects from Thailand’s current position as the coordinator between ASEAN and China this year, hopes for a nuclear-free and peaceful Korean peninsula, the multi-nation dispute over the Spratly islands to the present state of internal political conflict, the insurgency in the Deep South, and the alleged influence of her elder brother and ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Yet the main focus of her visit was to drum up support for the high-speed train project, which is a central plank in the 2 trillion baht infrastructure loan plan, and the Dawei deep-water port development.

Prime Minister Yingluck stated she was pleased Japan had taken an interest in joining the bidding process to win the contracts to build the planned four high-speed train lines.

The other countries who have also expressed an interest in bidding are China, South Korea, France, and Spain.

The four high-speed lines would all begin in Bangkok, naturally enough, radiating out to Chiang Mai and Nong Khai in the north, Rayong (via Pattaya) on the Eastern Seaboard, and Padang Besar on the border with Malaysia.

The government hopes to begin work on the projects in 2014 with completion by 2019.

The prime minister also talked up the potential economic benefits of the Dawei deep-water port project. She suggested Japan could do well to invest in the project because once it was fully developed it would facilitate links to markets in South Asia, the Middle East and Europe. The port town will become a maritime ‘hub’ and vibrant industrial zone.

With the arrival of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) at the end of 2015 it is likely the prime minister said that Myanmar and Thailand will be the gateways to Asia and nearby regions.

As an additional ‘teaser’ for the Japanese prime minister, Yingluck said her government’s recent decision to raise the minimum daily wage to 300 baht a day meant Thai people had more money to spend and they would be looking to buy Japanese products.