It is quiet in Pak Bara. Fishermen returning from the Andaman Sea dock their vessels at its pier in the south-western corner of Thailand. Travellers hop onto boats that cut across turquoise waters towards nearby marine national parks.
All this could change if the kingdom carries out a long-stalled proposal to transform Pak Bara into a deep-sea port that would give shippers a shortcut between Europe and East Asia.
The plan calls for Pak Bara in Satun province to be eventually linked by road and rail to another deep-sea port in Songkhla province by the Gulf of Thailand, allowing international cargo to avoid the circuitous and congested route down the Strait of Malacca.
Proponents point out that Asean’s second-largest economy is heavily reliant on Laem Chabang port in the gulf, which is fast reaching its capacity. The country has no equivalent outlet along the Andaman coast, so rubber, a key export in the Thai south, has to be trucked to Malaysia and then shipped out via Penang port.