thailand-scraps-the-kra-canal-project-livemint

Context: China has suffered a severe blow from Thailand, which said it will scrap the Kra Canal project (would connect the Gulf of Thailand with the Andaman Sea) that Beijing wanted to build to shorten its access to the Indian Ocean.

Analysis

  • China was pinning its hopes on the Kra Canal project, a proposal to construct a 120-kilometre mega canal cutting through the isthmus of Kra in Thailand.
  • Isthmus is a narrow piece of land with water on each side that joins two larger areas of land.
  • The Thai canal could have been a crucial strategic asset for China, allowing its navy to bypass the Strait of Malacca, a narrow chokepoint between the Malay Peninsula and the Indonesian island of Sumatra that divides the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
  • As things stand, Thailand no longer wants the Kra Canal as it is turned out to be infeasible both economically and politically.
  • Firstly, economic reasons: The Kra Canal project was unlike Suez Canal or Panama Canal that would have helped reduce a substantial amount of time or expenditure. geopolitics - Kra Canal
  • Kra Canal (120 km appx.) as an alternate route through the Malacca, Sunda or Lombok Straits would have generated very limited revenue, which would not have justified its construction cost. 
  • The Suez Canal (193 km appx.) is a man-made waterway connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Indian Ocean via the Red Sea. 
  • The Panama Canal (64 km appx.) is a constructed waterway that connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans across the Isthmus of Panama.
  • Besides the economic reasons, a Thai canal would pose a little threat to the US and its allies, including India, which can effectively counter Chinese expansionism with the up-gradation of domestic forward bases in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  • The real concern is that it would further undermine the independence of poor southeast Asian countries like Myanmar and Cambodia, which have comparatively weak civil societies that are highly vulnerable to Chinese interference. And it absolutely imperils Thailand.
  • Along with the decision to scrap the canal project, the Thai government has dropped the purchase of Chinese-made military submarines for a year following public outrage over the controversial agreement.

As per the TFIPOST report, China has lost all its friends in the Indo-Pacific region. "Thailand itself, for example, is a part of the Milk Tea Alliance- an online democratic solidarity movement run by internet users from Thailand, Taiwan and Hong Kong.