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China-Thailand railway has Thais dreaming of Asian connectivity

Twenty-four-year-old Nantapong Nuchanet is looking forward to driving a high-speed train in his home country of Thailand. As construction of the China-Thailand railway continues apace, he is getting closer to his dream job.

Nantapong currently works as a translator on the first-phase of the China-Thailand railway that will link Bangkok with Nakhon Ratchasima in northeastern Thailand. “I’ve achieved a small goal of mine by doing a job related to the high-speed railway,” he said.

Nantapong considers himself a lucky man – he learned Chinese after becoming interested in the culture and technology, which won him a chance to study in China.

In 2016, Nantapong took an exam at the Maritime Silk Road Confucius Institute and won a three-year scholarship at Tianjin Railway Technical and Vocational College in Tianjin, where he chose to learn high-speed train operation and maintenance. After graduating in 2019, he got a job at the China-Thailand railway project.

“When I studied in China, I used to take the Beijing-Tianjin high-speed train. It ran really fast and steady. I hope … I can drive such a train after the China-Thailand railway starts operating,” he said.

Nantapong wants to take the train from Thailand to Tianjin and to the tourist city of Guilin in south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

The China-Thailand railway, an important part of the trans-Asian railway network, will be Thailand’s first standard-gauge high-speed railway.

It will carry trains from Bangkok to the border town of Nong Khai, where a bridge will connect it with the China-Laos railway, making it possible to travel by train from Bangkok, through Laos, to Kunming in southwest China’s Yunnan province.

Analysts say the railway will not only spur economic development of regions along the line in Thailand but also help link the pan-Asia railway network and promote regional connectivity.

Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi told media on July 14 that China, Laos and Thailand see the opening of the China-Laos Railway as an opportunity to smooth the flow of goods with convenient channels, promote economy and trade with better logistics, and boost the development of industries with robust economy and trade.

Efforts will be made to advance the vision of interconnected development of China, Laos and Thailand, Wang said.

For Viroj Lubkritcom, a 59-year-old Thai engineer, the China-Thailand railway is more than just physical infrastructure; it will also boost people-to-people bonds.

Viroj has worked in project supervision for 35 years and is now employed by the China Railway Design Corporation (Thailand Branch), which is supervising the first-phase China-Thailand railway.

“We’ve been working closely with our Chinese colleagues. By cooperating and communicating with them, we have gained a lot of experiences, both in terms of railway construction and project management,” he said.

Viroj expects the project to serve as a bridge for closer personnel exchanges between Thailand and China, and a boon for tourism development.

“We’ve seen that the China-Laos railway has boosted local tourism and logistics since it started operation. My friends and I hope the construction of the China-Thailand railway will finish as soon as possible and better connect us with our neighbouring countries,” he said.

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