Thailand plans to offer Quad members, including India contract for building Canal
Thailand, once enjoying good relations with China, is now concerned about Beijing’s growing belligerence in the South China Sea
In a major blow to China, Thailand has claimed that three of the Quad members, India, Australia and the United States have shown interest in building strategically important Kra Canal in the southern part of the country.
This has come close on the heels of Thailand postponing the procurement of two submarines from China.
Thai newspaper, Khaosod English quoted Songklod Thipparat, a Thai Nation Power Party parliamentarian who chairs the parliamentary group studying the feasibility of the project, said countries such as India, Australia, and the US are willing to support Thailand.
“They want to sign a memorandum of understanding with us,” Songkold Thipparat said in an interview.
More than 30 foreign firms have shown keen interest in investing or supplying them with financial and technical support to build the canal, the parliamentarian said.
He said the feasibility study of the Thai Canal project, initiated by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, is almost complete and will soon be submitted to the Parliament for debate.
“The feedback is very good,” the Thai parliamentarian said. “Even research conducted by the UN also suggests that the canal should be built.”
The Thai Canal, also known as Kra Canal would connect the Gulf of Thailand with the Andaman Sea across the Kra Canal in southern Thailand. The canal would provide an alternative to transit through the Straits of Malacca and shorten transit for shipments of oil to Japan and China by 1,200 km.
China had its eyes on the construction of a 120-kilometer mega canal cutting through the Isthmus of Kra in Thailand for a long time.
It would have helped Beijing in solving the ‘Malacca Dilemma’ by bypassing the Strait of Malacca, a narrow choke point between the Malay Peninsula and the Indonesian island of Sumatra that divides the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
China has referred to the project as part of its 21st century maritime Silk Road.
If Thailand chooses one of three quad members interested in the project, it will be a heavy blow to China's ambitions to dominate the region. It could be said that China will face a double blow amid India China border tension.
In recent times, Thailand, which once was the strongest ally of China in the South China Sea region, had become cautious while dealing with the country.
It has decided to not only postpone the procurement of two submarines from China but has also put on hold the Chinese proposal for building a canal in the Bay of Bengal and replaced it with its own project.