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Thailand’s high-speed railway will carry first passengers in 2023

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The first section of the 873 kilometre high-speed railway running between Thailand and China should be operating by 2023.

Thailand will now pay for the total cost of the 179 billion baht first section of the high speed rail line, but China is providing the design and will provide the train and carriages. The first 252 kilometre leg, from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima, in the north east, is set to carry its first passengers in 2023.

The project is part of China’s planned network of high speed rail links across south east Asia that will eventually connect Kunming in south western China with Singapore. The second section of the line will connect Nakhon Ratchasima to Nong Khai on the Laos border, through Laos and then to China.

The acting Governor State Railway of Thailand announced yesterday that the contracts are currently being finalised and will be signed before the end of the year. The project was delayed in 2016 when Thailand rejected Chinese financing citing high interest rates in the original contracts.

Contracts are also being finalised for the proposed high speed rail links between Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports in Bangkok, and U-Tapao near Pattaya.

The trains will run at speeds up to 250 kph.

Thailand's high-speed railway will carry first passengers in 2023 | News by The Thaiger

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Thailand

Migrant workers risk losing their legal status, the Cabinet to extend work permit amnesty

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Migrant workers risk losing their legal status, the Cabinet to extend work permit amnesty | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Frontier Myanmar

Over 1.7 million migrant workers in Thailand are going to lose their legal working status because they can’t submit work permit renewal and a health certificate with Covid-19 test results in time. The Labour Ministry then proposes the cabinet will extend the registration period (amnesty) for migrant workers to help maintain their legal status. Migrant workers, including those illegal and unemployed workers, are required to register with authorities via the ministry’s website from January 15 until February 13.

According to the Labour Minister, every migrant worker to renew their work permit must receive a Covid-19 test at hospitals designated by the Public Health Ministry. The Department of Medical Sciences will be responsible for the testing costs.

Illegal and unemployed workers, who registered with the Ministry, will be allowed to stay in the Kingdom for 2 years without penalties. Only those migrant workers from Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar are allowed to overstay their current visas, but are required to register with the provincial employment office in the area they work, as part of the amnesty.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Environment

Laos – the ‘battery’ of Asia and a ticking environmental time bomb

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Laos – the ‘battery’ of Asia and a ticking environmental time bomb | The Thaiger

LAOS POWER FACTS:

Number of power plants soon to be completed by the end of 2020:53 hydropower plants under construction or in the planning stage, including those set to be completed this year; there will be more than 90 hydropower plants in Laos with a combined installed capacity of almost 14,000MW.

Transmission lines that connect with neighbouring countries: 14 carry power to Thailand, 2 to Vietnam, 1 to China, 2 to Cambodia, and 1 to Myanmar.

Trick question. What uses more power? Siam Paragon in Bangkok or the entire province of Mae Hong Son (with 250,000 residents in north-west Thailand)?

The astonishing answer is, of course, Siam Paragon. By a factor of DOUBLE the power consumption of the north-western Thai province near the Myanmar border. Siam Paragon consumes 123 GWh of electricity a year (in 2011), compared to the quarter-million inhabitants of Mae Hong Son Province, who over the same period, used 65 GWh.

So, whilst you trek across some ancient hills enjoying an old and proud culture in Thailand’s north-west you need to compare that with some of the opulent malls in central Bangkok which can easily compare with their counterparts in Singapore, New York or London.

The worlds of luxury brands Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Prada, Tiffany and Cartier, and the power these shops consume, is an entirely different world from other parts of rural Thailand. But Siam Paragon is just one of half a dozen luxury malls sprawled along a 6 kilometre stretch of the city’s upscale Sukhumvit stretch. They all consume vast amounts of power along with a growing number of expensive condominium projects.

So, Thailand has turned to Laos and the hydro-electric potential along the Mekong to feed its growing electricity demand. Xayaburi and Don Sahong dams, currently under construction, are among the cornerstones of a dam-building bonanza by Laos to realise its aspiration to become the “Battery of Asia”. Thailand is one of Laos’ key partners and buyers of power. And the kingdom’s largest energy consumer is (no surprise here) Bangkok, with it’s sparkling lights and air-conditioning ticking over the electricity meters at rapid pace.

Many analysts worry the planned hydropower dams will devastate fish populations, harm agriculture and hurt culture and tourism along the fragile Mekong basin, threatening the livelihoods of 65 million people who rely on the river for income and food.

With 42 power plants now operational, Laos is poised to realise its electricity ambitions. With a current installed capacity of approximately 6,000MW, the Lao government expects to achieve 14,000MW by the end of this year.

Thailand is not on its own with massive development and expansion putting pressure on the older ways of life. But the disparity in the Kingdom between the power-hungry city life and the older-style agriculture is now sharply in focus with this new deal with the Laos power providers.

But a devastating collapse at a hydro dam in July 2018 shon the spotlight on Laos’ energy ambitions again. The devastation caused by the collapse of the Xepian-Xe Nam Noy dam in Attapeu province was sharp proof of the potential dangers in the Laotian government’s plans. The landlocked country sells much of its electricity abroad, which makes up 30-40% of its total exports.

The Lao PDR government is planning to double current energy production in the next 2 years. But environmental groups are warning of the project’s impact on the environment and the nations the river supports.

The movement of water, fish and sediment downstream has historically supported tens of millions of people along the Mekong, and efforts to constrain its flow are proving disastrous for the riverside communities.

For nearly 20 years, activists have called for action against the development of hydro-dams and water projects. But this month the campaign took the next step with plans to focus on taking action at the policy level.

It took 2 decades, but activists have now launched the “Mekong People’s Forum.” 200 people attended the forum including local villagers, conservationists, journalists, and representatives from the US and Australian embassies. The Chinese embassy, although invited, did not send anyone to attend the event. China is responsible for 11 dams along the Mekong.

This is the first time the many conservation groups and activists have come together with a single forum to tackle the many challenges for the river. Several dams have now been built upstream in Laos and China causing massive problems for the natural flow of the river downstream through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

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Environment

Thai government threaten to boycott new Lao hydro electric dam project

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Thai government threaten to boycott new Lao hydro electric dam project | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Xayaburi Dam

Loas officials have announced the announcement of yet another Laos hydro electric dam and Thai authorities aren’t happy. The long list of Laos and Chinese dams along the Mekong River have hugely affected the life of communities downstream of the Mekong in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. And Laos. The Lao PDR has been described as South East Asia’s ‘battery’ and has been building hydro electric dams at speed in recent decades, sometimes with disastrous consequences.

They’ve question the potential environmental impact of the planned Sanakham hydroelectric dam in Laos between Xayaburi and Vientiane, and say they could exercise a section of the Mekong River Agreement to halt the scheme.

The Mekong River is the 12th longest river in the world at 4,350 kilometres. It starts in the Himalayas and flows through six countries to its mouth in Vietnam and out into the South China Sea.

Somkiat Prajamwong, secretary-general of the Office of National Water Resources says they won’t oppose the dam project if there is no impact.

“But if conclude that construction will have a damaging effect on the environment in Thailand, we will exercise our right as a member of the Mekong River Commission to stop the project under the Mekong Agreement.”

Article 7 under the Mekong River Commission’s “Agreement on the Cooperation for the Sustainable Development of The Mekong River Basin 1995″ says that members of the Commission can veto any proposal for the area which they consider may have a harmful effect on the environment. The Article has never been used in the past.

The Thai government has issued a request to the Lao government for additional environmental studies, particularly as the limited information supplied by the Lao government hints at increased levels of sediment in the freshwater ecological system. ”

“We have requested additional information from the Lao government, particularly regarding concerns we have over the trans-boundary impact of the project. As far as I know, the correct environmental assessments have yet to be carried out,” according to the Bangkok Post.

Dr Chainarong Setthachua, a lecturer and ecology expert at Maha Sarakham University, has been a long-term critic of the “ongoing Mekong crisis”.

“It’s the most disastrous situation in history.”

Little is being done by governments whose are borders with the Mekong River despite recent stories and stark photos of the dried-bed of a major river that passes through China, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

“We used the river as a political tool and an asset for economic development. Yet, we did not supervise its development, which has resulted in a real disaster. I don’t see any solutions because every government is only focusing on building dams, but not on the scars these development plans are leaving behind.”

Thai government threaten to boycott new Lao hydro electric dam project | News by The Thaiger

A study from the Australian National University states that Mekong Basin dwellers are struggling to find new protein resources as a substitute for the fish. It would take both massive water and land resources, especially in Cambodia, to create new protein substitutes.

Downstream, communities in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta decline are suffering coastal erosion and salination of their once-fertile land. Dams are threatening the country’s “breadbasket” as locals experience food shortages and are unable to access freshwater for daily needs.

In July 2018, hundreds of households in Laos were heavily flooded after a large amount of water overflowed a saddle dam section of the Xe Pian dam following heavy rainfall in the Lao southern province of Attapeu. The disaster claimed 26 lives, left hundreds of people missing and more than 6,600 people homeless.

Last month, the Thai government fired the first salvo saying that it might not purchase electricity from the Sanakham dam project citing its “environmental impact”.

Mr Somkiat said that the dam site is also located on a curve of the river, which will make it harder to control the water flow compared with a straighter stretch, and that could have severe consequences for areas along the border.

The Lao government plans to build the 684-megawatt hydropower plant only 2 kilometres from Loei’s Chiang Kan district.

Construction of the new dam by a Chinese company is slated to start at the start of 2021 and finish in 2028 at a cost of 6.4 billion baht.

You can read more about the Laos project to use hydro electricity to ‘power’ its economy HERE.

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