As the sun dipped beyond the horizon, there was a sense of anticipation in the air. On the bustling platform of the Nong Khai railway station, you could hear the sound of enthusiastic cheers from the throng of onlookers anxiously waiting to catch a glimpse of their leaders, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin and Deputy Prime Minister Phumtham Wechayachai. The pair had just disembarked from the train that had whisked them from Udon Thani, their smiles shining in the glowing lights of societal approval.
In the hushed conversation that followed, Prime Minister Thavisin disclosed he would convene his debut mobile cabinet meeting in the province of Nong Bua Lam Phu, an event set for November. The prime minister explained his choice of location was not arbitrary. It was a deliberate decision taken after a meticulous assessment visit to the region. The aim, he declared, is to accentuate plans to turbocharge the region’s economy, providing some much-needed relief to the inhabitants of the northeast.
While addressing his audience outside the Customs Office, starkly positioned near the border that separates Thailand from Laos, he discerned, the Nong Bua Lam Phu gathering proffers the perfect stage to focus on the local populace’s ongoing struggles. These include dismal per capita earnings, rampant drug penetration and the looming spectre of parched, drought-induced land.
Underscoring the north-eastern region’s potential, the Prime Minister drew attention to Khon Kaen and Udon Thani. He had toured these locales on Friday, and came away impressed by their infrastructural capabilities. Both places have ample airport facilities to facilitate the growing demand from tourists, besides their proximity to Laos gives them strategic advantages. Furthermore, Laos enjoys a swift high-speed railway connectivity to China, presenting lucrative economic prospects for these regions.
On the clock was a pressing concern of a double-track rail line linking Khon Kaen to Nong Khai. Stressing on its urgency, Mr. Srettha stated that it was time for this issue to take centre-stage in the next cabinet discussion, particularly because funds for its realization were already in the making. “Though, it might not require an exorbitant budget, it has the potential to yield significant profits,” he argued.
However, this is not an isolated development. He emphasized that it was of utmost importance to commence the construction of the railway track along with a cargo station on the Thai-Lao friendship bridge, a key passageway between Nong Khai and Laos’s capital city, Vientiane.
He optimistically signalled that numerous governmental organizations were diligently collaborating on upgrading amenities to aid the local export industry in meeting the booming demand for goods destined for Laos and China. These international trade discussions have been bountiful, and to re-evaluate the progress, he plans to circle back to the northeastern region in a month’s time.
The local business stalwarts from Nong Khai shared their dreams with the Prime Minister. They envisage a sturdy bridge between their city and Vientiane by 2029, and articulated their desire for a bustling business hub for traders in the city. They appealed to the government to back an initiative by Khon Kaen University to inaugurate a specialist high-speed railway engineering school. This envisioned school would have the potential to enhance the skill sets of the northeastern workforce, thus catalyzing further growth. The local tycoons also advocated for more policies that would stimulate the economic condition of Nong Khai.