Beijing eyes Thailand train deal

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The message was conveyed to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra by visiting Chinese premier Wen Jiabao during a meeting at Government House yesterday, Damrong Kraikruan, chief of the Foreign Ministry’s East Asia Department said.

China has sent a proposal to the government for consideration.

Mr Wen reiterated his country’s plan to join international firms in bidding for the project and expressed hope the contest would be transparent and fair, Mr Damrong said.

Thailand plans two high-speed railway lines to Chiang Mai and Nong Khai though it has yet to set bidding conditions for the multi-billion dollar plan.

Many other countries have also expressed an interest in competing.

“China is more interested in the project than other countries because this railway will link us to China,” Mr Damrong said.

The Bangkok-Nong Khai railway will also link to Laos, which has announced plans to start construction in January on a $7 billion railway line from Vientiane to the Chinese border, to be completed in 2018, according to state media reports.

Laos plans to finance it with a Chinese loan. The 420km project will use a standard-gauge track of 1.435 metres and require the construction of 76 tunnels and 154 bridges.

The Chinese leader arrived in Bangkok on Tuesday night for a 24-hour visit while en route back to Beijing after having attended the East Asia Summit in Cambodia.

It was his first visit to Bangkok in 10 years after assuming the top position in the Chinese government. He is stepping down in March next year.

During his stay in Bangkok, Mr Wen presided over the opening ceremony of the Chinese Cultural Centre, made a courtesy call on Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda, and was granted an audience by His Majesty the King.

Thailand and China yesterday inked four memorandums of understanding on rice, education, increased cooperation in those areas, and prisoner exchanges.

Mr Damrong said the bilateral talks between the Thai and the Chinese leaders were dominated by trade and investment issues.

Ms Yingluck told reporters at a joint press conference that the two countries have agreed to increase trade and investment. China has agreed to purchase more agricultural products such as rice, cassava, rubber and fruit from Thailand.

Thailand has asked the Chinese government to help take care of Thai investors facing problems dealing with local Chinese governments.

Ms Yingluck said Bangkok also expressed an interest in exporting ethanol to China. A joint panel on trade and investment will tackle the issues further.

On the rice deal, Ms Yingluck said private sector representatives of both countries signed an agreement on Tuesday to buy rice from Thailand.

The exact volume of rice could not be disclosed, a government source said. The deal was brokered by the private sector, not through the governments.

Ms Yingluck said the government has invited Chinese investors to put more money into Thailand. The kingdom has set a target pushing for a 15% increase in Chinese investment here every year.

Thailand would like more investment in natural rubber processing, biological plastics and motor vehicles, she said.

Mr Wen expressed an interest in encouraging Chinese investment in the Dawei deep-sea port project, the kingdom’s high-speed railway lines and the flood protection system.

Ms Yingluck praised Mr Wen for playing an important role in promoting Sino-Thai relations and helping strengthen the Asian region.

Mr Wen said China was ready to work with Thailand to help push Asean-China cooperation forward.

He said China would work with Bangkok to develop transport, agriculture, irrigation and the Mekong region.

China was also ready to support Thai students studying Mandarin in Thailand, Mr Wen said.


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