Thai PM promises revival of Cambodia rail link

Chachoengsao (The Nation/ANN) - An unused railway line connecting the district of Aranyaprathet in Thailand's Sa Kaew province, to Cambodia's Poi Pet may be revived and developed as part of a high-speed train project that will connect Thailand with other Asean countries, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said yesterday.

Shinawatra said that the Sa Kaew province has business potential and the government has included the province in the 2.2-trillion baht (US$74.5 billion) infrastructure development plan, which includes railways to connect Cambodia to cater to business growth in the region.

The six-kilometre section has not been maintained for years, making rail travel to and from Cambodia impossible. The link is part of the 10 Asean countries' plan to build a regional railway network to connect with China.

During her visit to Klong Luek checkpoint in Aranyaprathet, Shinawatra instructed officials to overhaul the immigration and customs system to reduce service time by up to two hours.

The prime minister said she also supported the opening of the Ban Nong Ean checkpoint in Aranyaprathet to connect with the Ban Stung Bot in Banteay Meanchey province of Cambodia. However, she stressed that first the area must be confirmed to be safe from landmines. She said if the 2.2-trillion baht loan is approved, the province could have automatic immigration channels that could cater to thousands of tourists passing through the border daily. Sa Kaew province has requested 37 million baht to upgrade the immigration system.

Shinawatra praised the eastern border province of Sa Kaew for its clear development strategy, in wanting to make the province a Green Energy City and Border Trade and Logistics Centre City.

Shinawatra was speaking to Sa Kaew Governor Pakkathorn Thianchai and provincial officials during the roaming Cabinet meeting yesterday in Sa Kaew.

Pakkathorn has requested the Cabinet for funds to implement the following projects in order to implement the strategy: 59 million baht to build an energy plant distribution centre; 25 million baht to construct a central market in Wang Somboon district; 17 million baht to promote agriculture with "energy" plants such as tapioca.

Shinawatra suggested that the province implement agricultural zoning to solve the water shortage.

The PM travelled on to Prachin Buri to visit Chaophya Abhaibhubejhr Hospital, known for its Thai traditional medicine production that meets Good Manufacturing Practice standards.

During the Cabinet meeting today in Chachoengsao, nine groups of protesters and supporters of the government will rally to air their grievances and show their support. Supporters include red shirts from eastern provinces, while protesters include those who oppose the Khao Hin Son power plant, those who oppose the expansion of Laem Chabang Port in Chon Buri, those who have not received compensation after the 2011 flooding, and farmers who have not received money from millers in the rice pledging scheme.

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