Bangkok: Thailand government has announced scrapping the KRA Canal project, part of China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Also, the government has declared to temporality delay the deal with China for buying two submarines. Thailand’s decision is believed to have delivered a significant economic blow to China as also to its military plans. A few days ago, Myanmar had decided to withdraw from several projects under the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC). After that, the Philippines Foreign Minister indicated scrapping deals with Chinese companies.
Kra Canal Project is not only extremely crucial economically but also from a military perspective. Most of China’s trade still largely depends on maritime shipping and the Strait of Malacca in the Indo-Pacific region is a crucial waterway required for it. The strait is a key waterway connecting the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean and lies within the maritime boundaries of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Also, the US and India are capable of blocking this waterway crucial to China. As China carries out incursions at the LAC, India has warned Beijing by deploying its warship in the Malacca Strait.
Therefore, China wanted to build $30 billion Kra Canal Project in Thailand as an alternative to the route. It is believed that the 120-mile long canal would have saved Chinese ships the 700-mile long circumvent through the Malacca Strait. Simultaneously, it would have also opened up a direct mega channel for Chinese warships to travel from the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean. The Kra Canal Project is also considered the most significant maritime shipping route comparable to the Suez Canal and the Panama Canal.
China was extensively lobbying for the project in Thailand. However, in the face of tremendous resistance from opposition and local populace, the Thailand government was forced to cancel the project. Right after, Thailand also delayed the decision to buy two submarines from China. The dual hits delivered simultaneously to China have disturbed its sphere of influence. Analysts claim the outright rejection from Malaysia, Myanmar and then Thailand are indications of China’s coercion ending in Southeast Asia.
Last year, Malaysia had scrapped a billion-dollar project which was a part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Subsequently, the latest decisions of Myanmar and Thailand seem to have foiled the country’s military plans. The Kra Canal Project was China’s largest investment in the ASEAN nations.