Ampornstira, Fuangfa and John Walsh, “Prospects for the Kra Isthmus Canal,” paper to be presented at the International Conference on Commerce, Financial Markets and Corporate Governance/2nd International Conference on Research Methods in Management and Social Sciences (Shinawatra University, Thailand: February 7th, 2015).
Plans have been drawn up to dig a canal across the Kra isthmus in southern Thailand for centuries, most notably during the period of European colonization. The benefits of such a canal are plain, since it would greatly reduce shipping costs and enable vessels to avoid the Straits of Melaka. This latter point makes the project particularly attractive to the Chinese government, because it would provide an option to import vital resources such as oil in waters that are not wholly controlled by the US naval forces. It would further strategic Chinese interests that have been shown in the String of Pearls policy and the Nicaraguan canal. However, significant problems remain before the Kra isthmus canal can be built. These include diplomatic issues and ongoing security issues, as well as the formidable engineering concerns. Further, there are the local concerns among the residents who would be affected by construction and would be forced to leave their homes and employment. Other social forces will also come into play. This paper explores in brief the history of the idea of the Kra isthmus canal and then analyses the various issues that currently require to be resolved before the earth can be broken.
Keywords: China, international relations, Kra isthmus, shipping, Thailand