BANGKOK: Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has poured cold water on a controversial, multi-billion-dollar plan to dig a shipping route across the country’s Kra Isthmus to connect the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea, a news report said yesterday.
In a statement quoted by the Bangkok Post, Thaksin distanced himself from his Deputy Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, who awarded a contract to conduct a Kra canal feasibility study to a Hong Kong firm, Phuket Pass Project Ltd.
“Whoever wants to conduct a feasibility study can do so, but the government won’t get involved or give financial support.
“The government has never said it will embark on such a project.
“If such a study is made and the result submitted to us, all the government will do is to say thank you.
The government may take it as a database for possible future use. But, for the time being, the government has no intention whatsoever to do it,” Thaksin was quoted as saying.
The feasibility study was approved last September, bringing a 200-year-old dream to cut a canal through the Kra Isthmus to create an alternative shipping route to the Straits of Malacca a step closer to reality.
Chavalit, a former prime minister and army commander, was appointed chairman of the National Committee on the Kra Canal Feasibility Study.
If it ever gets off the drawing board, the proposed canal and related harbours, east-west highway, oil refinery and monorail are expected to cost an estimated US$25bil (RM95bil).
Competitors for the feasibility study criticised the manner in which the contract deal was awarded to Phuket Pass Project. Thailand has been mulling the Kra Canal project, which would be one of the greatest engineering projects in history, for two centuries but has never conducted a comprehensive study on the project’s feasibility. – dpa
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