Malaysia mulls expanding rail project towards Thai border

Photo courtesy of Bangkok Post

To outmanoeuvre economic rivalry with Thailand, Malaysia is contemplating extending its mammoth rail project closer to its northern neighbour, sparking debates over prosperity or peril.

Malaysia’s Transport Minister, Anthony Loke, disclosed that the government is receptive to the notion of linking the ongoing East Coast Railway Link (ECRL) with Thailand’s existing or planned rail infrastructure.

The move comes amidst Thailand’s ambitious Land Bridge initiative, envisaging a comprehensive road and rail network connecting ports in Ranong and Chumphon provinces. This billion-dollar endeavour aims to circumvent Malaysia’s dominant shipping lanes in the Malacca Strait, potentially altering regional trade dynamics.

Loke emphasised in Malaysia’s parliament that the relationship with Thailand transcends mere competition, advocating for joint efforts to address common political and economic hurdles. Highlighting cross-border connectivity as a pivotal area for collaboration, Loke underscored the significance of the ECRL, slated for completion by 2027, in fostering regional integration.

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The proposed extension would bring the ECRL tantalisingly close to Thailand’s border, with its current terminus a mere 40 kilometres from Narathiwat. Loke projected minimal impact on Malaysia’s key ports, foreseeing Penang as the primary locus of concern, while Klang and Johor ports remain largely unscathed, reported Bangkok Post.

However, Loke tempered expectations, cautioning that the Land Bridge’s fruition, if pursued, could be a protracted process spanning over a decade.

In related news, the streets of Malaysia’s Kelantan state, which shares its borders with Thailand, have witnessed a surge in the number of beggars this year, according to a report by the Kelantan Social Welfare Department. This surge, notably observed during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, includes Thai nationals among other foreign beggars.

In other news, Malaysia Airlines Berhad (MAB) announced three new routes to the Maldives, Chiang Mai, and Da Nang. As part of its ambitious expansion strategy aimed at capturing the leisure market, MAB, a key player in the Malaysia Aviation Group (MAG), is primed to whisk travellers away to exotic destinations with unparalleled ease.

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Puntid Tantivangphaisal

Originally from Hong Kong, Puntid moved to Bangkok in 2020 to pursue further studies in translation. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Comparative Literature from the University of Hong Kong. Puntid spent 8 years living in Manchester, UK. Before joining The Thaiger, Puntid has been a freelance translator for 2 years. In her free time, she enjoys swimming and listening to music, as well as writing short fiction and poetry.

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