PRIME MINISTER Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday wrapped up his visit to China for the BRICS summit and to sign contracts for a high-speed train line that will help fulfil China’s One Belt One Road Initiative.
On the sideline of the summit in Xiamen, Prayut met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday to discuss cooperation in various fields, notably regional connectivity overland and along the Mekong River.
Xi said China appreciated Thailand’s active participation in the Belt and Road Initiative, and was willing to strengthen cooperation with Thailand in areas of investment, railways, Internet finance, digital economy and e-commerce.
In this context, Prayut and Xi witnessed the signing of four pacts, including the Bt3.5-billion design and supervision contracts for the Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima high-speed rail line, a memorandum of understanding on cooperation on the One Belt One Road Initiative and an action plan on a strategic partnership.
Prior to Prayut’s visit to China, the Cabinet approved the content of the contracts, including an increase in the rail budget from Bt1.6 billion to Bt3.5 billion, according to Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith.
Thailand would ask China to begin a survey and study the second phase of the railway to connect Nakhon Ratchasima and Nong Khai, in order to link Thailand and Laos by 2022, Arkhom said after the signing in Xiamen.
Meanwhile, Prayut said Thailand was willing to maintain high-level contacts with China, deepen bilateral and multilateral cooperation, consolidate political trust, expand economic and trade exchanges, promote mutual investment, enhance people-to-people exchanges, and strengthen cooperation in such fields as education, scientific research and infrastructure.
Thailand supported and would actively participate in the Belt and Road Initiative and the Lancang-Mekong cooperation agreement, he said.
The signing of contracts on the railway project was the highlight of Prayut’s visit to China, with observers saying that his invitation to attend the summit of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) was a reward for the contracts.
Beijing did not invite Prayut to its Belt and Road forum in May. He was among three Asean leaders – with Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah – not on the guest list.