A Crassy Kra

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Map of Thailand, showing north-eastern part of Isan

Not many would have known of what Kra actually means? The Thai word when loosely translated into English actually means freckles!

What else could be a stranger way to name a very popular and idyllic holiday jaunt named Krabi in Thailand to denote what is found on a messed-up face!

And now what ‘freckles’ may turn into is, it will test Singapore to be its biggest bugbear.

In news reports that have been raging full throttle over the last 40 years, the Thai government purportedly under the stewardship of the new Thai king is considering reviving a long buried project of unearthing and tearing up the earth in their southern border with Malaysia and open a new canal.

The project which has the tacit support of China is meant ostensibly to shorten the navigable distance ships take from the Indian Ocean to ports and destinations in East Asia. If such a grand project were to come to pass, it will become the world’s third such canal after the Suez Canal and the Panama Canal and be a boon to maritime traffic because freight rates will inevitably be lowered. What is more ships can avoid the pirates who are always lying in wait in the Malacca Straits.

There instantly, will be every bit of a chance that it may provide jobs in Thailand. That is a welcome prospect for a nation that has never had a legendary ship building or seafaring tradition let alone the expertise that some nations like Japan, Korea and Singapore, have had over the years and which have been taken to the hilt with distinction.

Just as worrisome is the environmental impact of building a canal. Nowhere in any of the received reports, have there been any expert opinion of the environmental and ecological footprints arising from a potentially massive civil engineering project, coupled with the dislocation it promises to the livelihood of the peoples on either side of the southern Thai border.

But there as it now seems a larger dynamic that just what the Thais want. A canal at any rate, would displace Singapore’s maritime prowess.

“We are not worried over what we hear. We will wait till something pans out. Until now there is none” was what a source close to Singapore’s port regulatory body said to The Independent, reflecting the confidence with which Singapore has always brushed aside competition.

As for ‘freckles’, sit out and wait for what happens next?

This paper’s bet is that the Chinese have way too much on their hands in terms of pollution in their country, armoured personnel carriers belonging to another country and snapping at the heels of other nations than to think of what to do with the freckles a canal – however, promising – can potentially bring!