Saturday, March 28, 2015

From Krabei : Silk Road 2.0

Dear friends:
Happy New Year to All.
If TPP is not enough to sweep the fragile Khmer nation and Lao off the map, China’s new game plan known in the diplomatic lexicon as “High-speed Railway Diplomacy” is bearing down on Cambodia from the opposite direction of the TPP.
Xi Jinping and the head of the Thai Junta, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, have just signed an MOU approving a massive railway from Nong Khai, Thai town on the south bank of the Mekong River across from Lao city of Viengtian southward to Thai industrial seaport of Rayong in the Gulf of Thailand southeast of Bangkok.
The layout is most likely an extension of China’s rail project out of Yunnan province into Vientian, Laos. An additional set of high-speed rail will be originated from Thai northeast provincial town of Ubon Ratchathani (Issan) not far from the tri-border area where Thai, Lao, and Khmer border meet at the east end of Phnom Dang Rek mountain chain, which is to be connected to the Nong Khai/Rayong tracks outside Bangkok.
 But what does that has to do with Cambodia?
Coming southeast from Ubon Ratchathani toward the tri-border mountain pass there is a Khmer outpost at the small foothill village of Trapeang Kol, settled by a regiment of Former KR troops working for Hun Sen for wage, guarding the Thai/Khmer border to the north, and Lao/Khmer border to the east of the village along Tonle Ropov River in the Khmer historic province of Mlu Prey, now Preah Vihear Province.
Continue eastward along Tonle Ropov River on the Lao/Khmer border trail, through the notorious Prey Lang, toward the river town of Thalabariwat across the Mekong from the market town of Steng Treng.
It is here where the Chinese has just completed an enormous modern bridge across the Mekong without making any noise or fanfare, a few years after they have completed a previous one across the Sesan River on Cambodia's National Route 7 going north to connect with Lao NR 13 at the border which cut across the Lao heartland and ends in Viengtian at the north end.
You can say it is a bridge to nowhere for now, because the road from Thalabariwat west to Thai/Khmer border at Trapeang Kol is a primitive dirt road, impassible in the monsoon season, and there’s no sizeable population center or municipality to speak of.  Just wait, you ain’t seen nothing yet, not until the Chinese come back with road building equipment and make a four-lane highway from the west end of the bridge all the way to Ubon Ratchathani tying this highway with the rail system there.
The Viet coming from Kon Tum in the Central Highlands will be able to access this highway corridor from the east across southeastern Laos at Champassak, and go south to Steng Treng on Lao NR 13. The Viet are just steps behind China like scavengers waiting to jump on scraps.
It is getting clearer by the day that China intends to make Burma, Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia their backyard in the name of progress. I do not believe the Chinese are throwing their new fortune around to improve their belligerent image among the smaller nations in the region. Chinese businesses and the labors are trickling in where their government spends money, to position themselves for exploitation of the local economy. Fragile economy like Burma, Cambodia and Laos have no leverage whatsoever to wiggle from under the Chinese economic weight when they need to, and may be smothered to death.
As far as nationalism, we can expect to see that when the floodgate of the “Yuan” swings wide open, authoritarian regimes such as we see in almost all of the ASEAN club, will be almost certainly to be washed out like plastic thrash in a rainstorm.
 For us Khmer when it rains it pours. I see frightening horizon of misery clouds of dust generated by the new “Chinese Silk Road” that has the potential to wreak havoc on the lives of “little people” like us. There’s no one to help us maneuver out of the way, but us.
Where’s the US and its allies in all of this?
What allies?…One may ask.
The world is now driven by where and how profits are made, not by ideology as we saw five decades ago.
The moral of the story is we “les petit peuples” must be firmly united and brace our kinfolks against total annihilation by this merciless whirlwind of wealth and power contest between superpowers who are competing to get to the top of the new world order. It is definitely an existential challenge for Khmer, Lao, and all ethnic people who are facing the bulldozers to come together to beat it back.

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