Columns
Kra canal: 64,000-dollar question
Lim Teck Ghee | 16 Jun 2017 00:30

Amidst the flurry of Chinese investment and deals in Malaysia and Southeast Asia in connection with China’s international development strategy, several tantalising questions arise. One which has been largely ignored by English-language China watchers with an interest in Southeast Asia is whether the cutting of a Kra Isthmus canal could be a part of that strategy and what its impact will be.

At first and even second glance, the response to the question is a no-brainer. The idea of a canal cutting through the narrowest point linking Thailand to Malaysia has been mooted ever since the late 17th century when European interest in the region focused on the maritime trading route linking Southeast Asia to the world through the Straits of Malacca and South China Sea.

By the late 19th century, the idea of a canal - following the examples of the Suez and Panama canals - appeared to make good business sense as it would bring substantial reductions in travel distance and time for goods shipped between Southeast and East Asia to the rest of the world.