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Kra Canal

The long envisaged but still unconstructed Kra Canal, across the narrow part of the Kra Isthmus of Southern Thailand, is of great interest to China, Japan, other parts of East Asia, and of course Thailand itself. It is even often featured within the context of China-Singapore relationship, since the topic gets hot among chinese journalists and bloggers whenever there is a problem between the two countries and simmers even in normal times; for example searching with "kra canal" on google returns 97000 pages, with "kra canal singapore" returns 17500; with 克拉运河 returns 127000 pages, and 克拉运河 新加坡 returns 64200. Similar results occur if you search baidu.com or some other chinese search engine. Significantly, the percentage of Chinese pages involving Singapore is much greater than that of English pages
in 2005 the then Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore made a visit to Taiwan, nominally an unofficial one; the Chinese foreign office was given prior notice of the visit and objected; when the visit took place despite the protest, complaints were made publicly, and the bloggers immediately went into overdrive, proclaiming the Kra Canal as the weapon to use for getting even with Singapore; this might be lousy economic planning, but it reveals something about the thinking process of the vocal and IT-literate chinese population segment
occasionally the same phenomenon arises in Thailand itself, though less vehemently; somewhat surprisingly, the recent diplomatic problem between Thailand and Singapore over Taksin and Shincorp has so far not brought out the Kra Canal issue
there is little doubt that a canal at Kra would facilitate shipping, in particular oil transport, between MidEast/Europe and China/Japan; the question is who is willing to make the very large investment required - clearly, Japan and China can afford the capital expenditure, but might not want to be the initiator for such a significant geo-political issue on Thai territory; Thai investors do not have face the same tricky problems, but might lack the experience in carrying out the economic and enviromental evaluations before project initiation, the project planning and management itself, and the canal's continuing operation and maintenance afterwards
there was once a lower cost proposal to build a land-link only, with a pipeline to pass oil from discharging tankers on the west side to receiving tankers on the east side, and a rail line to pass containers; however, the cost and time of discharging/land movement/loading across such a link would probably be no less than sending the ships around the Malay Peninsula, though there would be some benefit in reducing congestion in the Malaca Straits. One proposal has Malaysia building a pipeline in its territory, but the length would be much longer than if built at Kra so it is hard to tell how serious and economical the idea might be.
It should be interesting to note that searching google news with kra canal usually returns no items, but with 克拉运河 it currently return 3; on baidu it return 1540 items!!
added on 28 May: the Malaysian government has organized a group with Malaysian, Indonesian and Saudi Arabian corporation to build a pipeline accross northen Malaysia. The project is supposed to cost US$7B and will complete in 2014).
克拉运河是一件讲了很久但到现在还是未做成的大计划;如果在泰国南部(马来半岛上面)克拉狭地那里开一条运河连通印度洋和南海,可以大大减少由欧洲/中东航行去中国日本的距离;而且本题目和中新关系有特别关联,各位不妨先去看看google 和百度上面的资料:用 克拉运河 搜索在google找到 127000 页, 用 克拉运河 新加坡 找到 64200, 百度和其他中文搜索的结果基本都是那样;可见中国很多人把这两件事连在一起,尤其是中新关系有些问题的时候,比如2005年新加坡当时的副总理李显龙访问台湾引起中国抗议,网上就有大批“建运河搞垮新加坡经济”之类的言论;这可以说是一种典型的愤青思维
在google新闻用with kra canal 搜索通常找不到消息, 用 克拉运河 今天找到 3 条; 百度有 1540 条!! (2007年五月消息:马来西亚、印尼及沙地阿拉伯公司今日签署一项协议,以便在北马兴建横跨吉打、霹雳及吉兰丹三州的油气管工程。整个工程造价70亿美元,预料将在2014年竣工)