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Thailand Samak gov't: I have a dream…

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Stéphane Hanot  Mar 17, 2008

(eTN) - Thailand’s new government of Samak Sundaravej is looking to relaunch infrastructure mega-projects in Thailand, reviving a policy from previous Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The country will go then to speed up rail and public transport infrastructure in Bangkok and around the country as well as looking to expand Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport. Mega projects will concretely see a new irrigation system taking its sources from the Mekong River to irrigate the country's drought-hit northeastern region as well as a new 600 km-highway linking four provinces: Phetchaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Ranong and Chumphon. Construction is due to start in 2009/10.

The new highway will indeed help to speed up tourism investments around an old project from the previous Thaksin government: the development of a Thai Riviera. Last week at Berlin’s ITB, Thailand’s new Minister of Tourism Weerasak Kowsurat announced the development of luxury resorts all around an area stretching from the Cambodian Border to Pattaya and Hua Hin and futher to the South to Chumphon. “We want to offer a luxury product along the area, focusing only on high quality,” said the minister.

Investors are being encouraged to look at development opportunities along the Thailand Riviera. Let’s see then if investors will be as committed as Kowsurat to preserve Thailand’s environment. Easy money making have unfortunately been too often the sole driving engine for tourism over the past two decades.

Back in Bangkok, PM Samak already announced its commitment to make Suvarnabhumi airport Bangkok sole international gateway and will speed up the expansion of the facilities to handle 60 million passengers. A third runway and a satellite terminal are elements from the masterplan which would now get priority as well as the completion of an express rail link (due to open by 2009).

Still in Bangkok, urgently needed mass-transit lines will get priority for development. The previous government reduced the project of nine new routes to only three. The new elected Samak administration already pleaded to complete within three years the complete nine new routes, bringing over 100 more km of new train connections. It would be great for both Bangkok people and tourists to finally have a reliable system which could transport them all over the metropolis.

However, public transport development sounds mostly like a distant dream. Political vested interests as well as collusion between economic and political circles produced until now the contrary effect. The total project would reach over Baht 500 billion, some US$1.5 billion. And to see hundreds of rail lines built within three years when it took 40 years to just build 25 km of underground really sounds unrealistic or just like an innocent thought.

Thailand Samak gov't: I have a dream…
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