Thailand: Buying high-speed rail with rice

A Chinese high-speed train

Thailand is to hand over rice and rubber in part-payment for its new high-speed rail system, it's reported.

The country's transport minister is expected to formally agree the barter deal with Chinese premier Li Keqiang on Friday, according to the Nation. The project to link Bangkok with Nong Khai, close to the Laos border, is part of a proposed 2m baht ($30bn, £19bn) infrastructure investment programme to part-financed with agricultural products. The railway is one day envisaged to link Thailand with the Southern Chinese province of Kunming, via the Laos capital Vientiane.

However, fine details remain to be thrashed out between the countries. The Bangkok Post says even the transport minister isn't optimistic of the scheme's success. It also quotes a State Railway of Thailand official as saying red tape would get in the way and pointing out that a 2005 deal to buy diesel locos, freight wagons and spares with dried lamyai (a lychee-like fruit) and rice was finally scrapped this year, when the Thai government coughed up the cash instead.

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