Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha announced Tuesday that he intended to invoke the controversial Article 44 of the country’s interim constitution to allow construction to start on a Chinese-led, $5.5bn high-speed railway project linking Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasima province. Article 44 gives Prime Minister Prayuth absolute power to give any order necessary to “strengthen public unity and harmony” or prevent any act that undermines public peace, according to the Straits Times.
Prime Minister Prayuth’s decision to kickstart the project comes at an opportune time for China in the aftermath of the “One Belt, One Road” summit in Beijing and the turmoil caused over the cancelling of the existing China-led consortium implementing the Bandar Malaysia development project in Kuala Lumpur.
Adding to the increasing proximity between Thailand and China was another military sales deal consisting of a $68 million contract for 34 Chinese-built VN‑1 armored personnel carriers. General Chalermchai Sitthisart commented that “buying from China is better value for money.” The Thai government also approved the purchase of a Yuan Class submarine from China in April 2017.
Data from IntelTrak indicates that Chinese investment in Thailand has surged since 2015.