China wants a canal to cross Thailand into the Indian Ocean

Beijing might back Muslim rebels to secede if Thailand becomes less China-friendly: Foreign Policy

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Chinese Navy ships 

Chinese Navy ships  (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — As tension between China and India mounts, the former wants to build a canal across Thailand’s Isthmus of Kra to shorten its access to the Indian Ocean by 1,100 kilometers, reports said Thursday (Sept. 3).

At present, one of China’s weak points is that oil tankers, freighters and warships have to sail south to round Singapore and West Malaysia via the Malacca Strait. Beijing would like to reduce the problem by building the “Thai Canal” between the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea in Southern Thailand, a project estimated to cost US$30 billion (NT$880 billion).

Foreign Policy drew parallels between the eventual Chinese canal in Thailand and the Panama Canal, which caused Panama to secede from Colombia with more than a century of American domination as a result.

If the Thai Canal were ever built, China would increase its hold over Thailand, and could even decide to help Muslim rebels in the south split away from the rest of Thailand if a less pro-Chinese government took power in Bangkok, according to Foreign Policy.

The canal would form part of China’s “string of pearls” policy, including control over ports and potential naval bases in Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and Djibouti, causing India to worry about being encircled by the Chinese Navy.