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Article 44 exemptions for rail line


Rush to speed up project 'delayed for 2 years'

PRIME Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is expected to issue a sweeping order under Article 44 of the interim charter to grant multiple legal exemptions to the Thai-Chinese high-speed rail project, which has been delayed for almost two years.

Government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said Chinese engineers and architects will be allowed to work in Thailand for the project, bypassing existing regulations which require them to take local tests to qualify for the work.
Sansern said Chinese personnel in this field are regarded as highly experienced personnel with a record of building more than 20,000 kilometres of high-speed rail tracks in China.

Article 44 exemptions for rail line
He said that since the rail project is a specific government-to-government deal, it would be exempt from certain requirements in the state procurement law on bidding.
As well, a standard pricing method will be used instead of the median price for procurement to facilitate the signing of contracts with Chinese counterparts later this year.
And as parts of the Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima route will go through forest reserve areas, special permission will be given so that the project can go ahead.
A transitory provision in the new Constitution, in effect since April 6, retains Prayut’s powers in his capacity as head of the National Council for Peace and Order, as stated in the post-coup interim charter.
 Sansern said exemptions granted to the Thai-Chinese rail project will also apply to other similar and comparable transport schemes, as well as those in 
 energy and other sectors.
Transport Minister Arkhom Termpitayapaisit said legal resolutions were needed for the Bt179-billion project to go ahead as it was not possible to sign contracts with China under existing regulations.
Arkhom said deputy premier Wissanu Krea-ngam would prepare details of the legal exemptions to facilitate the project.
Sources said Chinese officials were not happy about the project’s delay so the Thai side needed to remove legal obstacles hindering the project.
One major problem is that the Thai procurement law requires competitive bidding in state procurement. Unless exemptions are granted, contracts cannot be signed by the two countries.
At this stage, it looks likely that the Chinese government will assign state enterprises to enter into contracts with their Thai counterparts.
Initially, the Thai government plans to build a 3.5-km line in the Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima-Nong Khai route later this year. 
Under the implementation schedule, a detailed design contract of the first section has to be signed next month, while a construction contract will be signed in August. 
Previously, Thai engineering and architect groups voiced opposition to the plan to exempt Chinese personnel to work here without having to qualify for their work permits. 
In fact, the project’s economic viability remains unclear despite investment of nearly Bt200 billion. The interest rates charged on loans for the project are also relatively high, compared to other similar projects.
Overall, the Chinese aim to connect the Bangkok-Nong Khai route with Laos and southern China. However, the traffic demand on the route is not expected to be sufficient in the project’s initial years.
Later, the rail lines could also be extended to other Asean countries, such as Malaysia and Singapore, representing a modern Chinese version of the ancient Silk Road. 

Published : June 13, 2017

By : The Nation