Asean, China Discuss Pan-Asean Rail Link

siem reap – The construction of a trans-Asean railroad should be a top priority for Asean countries, but organization and funding for it are still lacking, officials meeting in Siem Reap said Saturday.

Senior trade officials and other delegates from each Asean country and China met Saturday to discuss 77 development issues and to prioritize them. At the top of the list is the Singapore-Kun­ming rail link, a $2.5 billion undertaking that would provide movement of goods and people through­out Asean and into China.

“The main obstacle for this initiative is financial support,” said Huang Yong ’An, a senior Chi­nese official and permanent Asean liaison in Bangkok. Cam­bo­dia, especially, needs to rehabilitate 48 km of track between Poipet and Sisophon in Banteay Meanchey province, Huang said.

The rehabilitation of that stretch is “critical” to the success of the pan-Asean railway, he said. To that end, China was prepared to offer some assistance, but it would not be able to completely fund the work, he said.

“We can make our own support, but not all [of it],” he said. “If all the members make an effort, we can solve the problem.”

The meeting of Asean and Chinese delegates under the Asean Mekong Basin Develop­ment Cooperation was the fourth annual conference of leaders at a ministerial level.

Proposals for the prioritization of Mekong projects by the AMBDC’s steering committees will be taken back to member countries and considered, said Urooj Malik, country representative for the Asian Development Bank.

The ADB, which acted as an observer for the meeting, has headed an initiative for development of Mekong River countries under the Mekong River Sub­region program. Saturday’s meeting also included discussions between leaders on increased “synergy” of the two development mechanisms, Malik said.

The Asean-Mekong Basin Development Commission played an important part for economic development of Mekong River countries because it al­lowed a forum for discussions of high-ranking delegates from all of the countries, China’s Huang said.

In his opening remarks, Cam­bodia’s senior trade official, Min­ister of Commerce Cham Pra­sidh, encouraged member countries to endorse proposals made by the Asean secretariat, especially that of the Singapore-Kunming rail link.

 

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