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Thai junta vows to force through China railway

AFP  |  Bangkok 

Thailand's junta chief today said he would invoke his 'absolute powers' to clear hurdles holding up a multi-billion-dollar deal with to build a high- speed railway.

The two countries, who are increasingly close friends, have agreed to lay the track that will ultimately cut through the Laos' border to Thailand's south.

Beijing's big plan is to link the southern Chinese city of Kunming by rail with and work has already begun on the line in Laos.

But the deal with Thailand has been beset by delays, including a tussle over the initial loan terms from

More recently construction has been set back by a Thai limiting the number of foreign nationals who can work as engineers and architects on mega-projects inside the kingdom.

Today Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha said he would force through the deal, if necessary using Article 44 -- a self-granted dubbed an absolute power by critics.

"The must solve the problem otherwise it will hit snags or legal issues and it will look like the can't achieve anything," he told reporters.

Article 44 is a controversial power Prayut granted himself to make any executive decision in the name of national security.

He has used the on a raft of issues, from sacking officials to raiding a controversial temple, to deputising all soldiers with policing powers.

His defends it as a needed tool that bypasses Thailand's sclerotic bureaucracy.

But critics say it is a vivid illustration of the junta's unaccountable powers.

Prayut's comments will be a comfort to

The rail deal with is one of the biggest foreign investment projects in Thailand in years and is part of China's huge regional infrastructure drive.

The first stage of the Thai railway, a high-speed line between Bangkok and the north eastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima, is alone worth 179 billion baht (USD 5.2 billion).

The vast majority of technical expertise will come from Chinese engineers, something that may disgruntle Thai construction firms that stand to lose out.

Under junta rule Bangkok has cosied up to Beijing, splurging billions on Chinese arms and welcoming investment from the regional superpower.

Washington's relationship with Bangkok cooled under the previous administration of Barack Obama over the junta's rights abuses.

But Donald Trump has signalled relations may be rebooted by inviting Prayut to visit the White House.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, June 13 2017. 17:28 IST