(Thailand) Canals and Land Bridges: Mega-Infrastructure Proposals for Southern Thailand (Termsak Chalermpalanupap, ISEAS)

  • The idea of a canal across the Isthmus of Kra in Southern Thailand, or the Kra Canal, prevalent in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, resurfaced in the late 1990s as the Khlong Thai or “Thai Canal” idea.
  • However, the high investment costs, massive and unpredictable adverse environmental impacts, and security implications have all weighed against its realisation.
  •  A mega project proposal that envisions building a “Land Bridge” between Chumphon Province on the Gulf of Thailand and an enlarged deep-sea port in Ranong Province on the Andaman Sea has now been touted.
  • The proposed project has the support of Prime Minister Prayut Chanocha’s Transport Minister Saksiam Chidchob, who sees it as being in line with other proposals to develop Southern Thailand including the Eastern Economic Corridor.
  • The Land Bridge can be supplemented by yet another proposed mega project called the “Thai Bridge” — a new freight route of expressways and undersea tunnels beneath the Gulf of Thailand, linking Chonburi Province to the proposed Land Bridge.
  • It is now up to Prime Minister Prayut to decide on Southern Thailand’s future development.