Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Tuesday dismissed the latest round of rumours that the government plans to dig a canal across the Kra Isthmus.
He was responding to a report by China’s state broadcaster CCTV that said China was considering a proposal from the Thai government to develop the canal from the Gulf of Thailand to the Andaman Sea.
Gen Prayut said the Chinese government had not proposed a plan for the Kra Canal and, if they did, the Thai government would need to hold discussions to evaluate the project and its benefits, particularly in terms of national security.
The prime minister said the government must evaluate whether the implementation of the canal plan, which would cut the country into two sections, was a good idea and whether it would create problems in the country’s administration.
The latest wave of speculation over the project came after the CCTV documentary reported the Chinese government was considering a proposal to develop the canal.
It said China had taken the lead in studying proposals to fund and construct the canal, and that the project would begin soon. The report added the Kra Canal was part of China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative, and that it would cut short the shipping route of a journey between China and Europe or the Middle East by 1,200km, roughly three days of sailing time.
“Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei has already announced that the Chinese government has no plans over the Kra Canal,” said Assoc Prof Aksornsri Phanishsarn, director of the Thai-Chinese Strategic Research Centre.
“The Thai media should be more careful because rumours had been spread previously that an agreement on the canal digging idea was signed. But in the end the Chinese government dismissed them,” she said.
“I thought that was the end of all the wild rumours over the Kra Canal digging, but then again some groups were still pushing to make it happen, which has caused both nations a great deal of damage.”
Ms Aksornsri said she had checked the CCTV report and found there was some distortion of information due to TV anchors of the station inserting their own narration into the original version of the documentary that had been filmed in Thailand.