Mon, August 08, 2022

in-focus

Thais get 75% of rail deal


Bt134 billion of civil work on high-speed line to go to local contractors.

TECHNOLOGY transfer will be included in all three contracts for construction of the Bt179.4 billion Thai-Chinese high-speed train project, Transport Minister Arkhom Termpitayapaisit said.
After a teleconference with Chinese counterparts on Monday, he said Thai professionals would benefit from the transfer of technical know-how on designing, civil |construction, track, electrical, mechanical and other work.
In addition, he said that more than 100 Thai engineers would take part in the construction of the project, to ease concerns after a sweeping Article 44 order was issued by Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to “facilitate” Chinese personnel to work in Thailand.
Among the exemptions, Chinese engineers and architects would not have to obtain engineering licences issued by the Thai councils.
Government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the Engineering Council of Thailand would provide training and tests to ensure that Chinese counterparts follow domestic laws when working on the project.
The government also promised the council that around 10 types of local materials would be used in the construction, with the exception of some parts that would need “advanced technology” from China, the spokesman said.
Of the total Bt179 billion cost, about Bt44 billion – 25 per cent of the whole budget – would be given to China. The remaining 75 per cent of the budget would be offered to Thai contractors.
“There would be no median price because the railway is going to ultimately link with China. We can’t approach other countries like Japan, [South] Korea or the Europeans to have their participation,” he said.
“The PM wishes that Thais should have rounded consideration. If we make agreements with anyone and we care only about our own benefits, who on earth would want to cooperate with us?” he said.
The project should be viewed for its economic benefits as the high-speed train could help distribute prosperity, he said.
The same reason was cited by Prayut, who urged people to “make a difference for the future” instead of criticising the project.
“You shouldn’t just look at [physical] gains like how many passengers will get on the trains. But we have to think about economic benefits in the local area,” the premier said.
Prayut said the Article 44 order had been “tailored” to solve specific problems and other parts of the project would still be subject to a regular bidding process.
“We are going ahead with this project for national, not personal, benefits,” he said.
Meanwhile, Faculty of Engineering King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Lat Krabang dean Komsan Maleesee said that the government should include technology transfer as a condition in the contract to let Thai engineers learn high-speed train technology from China.
“I do not agree with the idea to let the Chinese experts work on this project alone without Thai involvement, because we will not get the high-speed train technology from China. 
“I suggest there should be laboratories for project designing and the development in Thailand in partnership with Thai universities in order to encourage knowledge sharing between Chinese experts and |Thai academics,” Komsan said.
He said universities and academics here already had a firm fundamental engineering knowledge, and were ready to learn more. And a partnership with universities would allow academics to spread the knowledge to the next generation and boost the country’s technology advancement.
“This is better than letting a private company work in partnership with the Chinese, as we have learned lessons from the past that we often failed to absorb new technologies from foreign investors. For instance, we let the Japanese firms set up the automobile industry in Thailand for a long time, but now we are still not able to build our own cars.”
Komsan said the government should also spell out in the deal how much Thai materials should be used, to boost local firms’ abilities.
However, Mana Nimitmongkol, head of the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand, expressed concern that the exemption of laws on NCPO order 30/2560 to rush the project may open loopholes for corruption.
“The laws that have been waived in the NCPO order include the Concerning Offences Relating to the Submission of Bids to Government Agencies Act, which we use as the legal tool to punish wrongdoers in government agencies,” Mana said. 
“This law does not have any impact on the progress of the project. It will only apply, if there is graft in the governmental project bidding, so waiving this law shows the intention to get rid of the tool to prevent and punish corruption on this project.”

Published : June 20, 2017

By : PRATCH RUJIVANAROM, WASAMON AUDJARINT THE NATION