BANGKOK (AFP) – Chinese premier Li Keqiang is set Friday to sign agriculture and transport agreements on a visit to Bangkok, as Thailand’s junta seeks diplomatic support after their coup was given short-shrift by the US and European allies. A dual-track railway through Thailand, part of a 1,400 kilometre (870 mile) vision of linking China’s southwestern hub city of Kunming with Asia’s second busiest port of Singapore, will be the centrepiece of Li’s visit, a Thai government spokesman told AFP.
Li will sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Thai counterpart Prayuth Chan-ocha, that will pave the way for a joint-venture to build two railways lines through Thailand.
The largest will cut 734 kilometres through Thailand, from northern Nong Khai – which borders Laos – to the vast, costal industrial estate of Map Ta Phut, southeast of Bangkok.
“The railways are a very important issue,” Yongyuth Mayalarp told AFP.
“This is fundamental and will reinforce our cooperation with China.”
Construction on the lines will start next year and be completed by 2022, he added, without giving a projected cost for the ambitious infrastructure link.
Further MoUs on rubber and rice will also be inked, he added.
Li joins regional leaders – including from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos – for the Greater Mekong Summit in Bangkok, where mega-dams and hydro-electric power schemes will also be up for discussion, despite mounting concerns over the environmental and social impact. But Li’s visit will also be widely interpreted as an endorsement of Thailand’s new military rulers, who grabbed power from the elected government in May.