THE KRA CANAL AND THE QUESTION OF NATIONAL SECURITY

The separation of a country derives from political problems, it does not necessarily always stem from an actual physical separation. The physical configuration of countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines is made up of an archipelago of islands. The Philippines, composed of thousands of islands, is still considered by the international community as one country. Digging a Kra Canal is not going to separate Thailand nor is it going to cause the country to lose its sovereignty. The Kiel Canal, for example, situated in the northern part of Germany, was completed in 1887. In 1918, after Germany had lost World War I, England and France, the victorious countries, sought to set up an international committee to survey operations at the Kiel Canal. However, the United States did not agree, arguing that the Kiel Canal is located inside German territory, is under its national jurisdiction and is not a waterway passing through the territories of many countries. (2)
In the same way, the Kra Canal would be built across Thailand. It will not be a waterway passing through the territories of many countries. This means that once it is built, it would come strictly under the sole jurisdiction and sovereignty of Thailand. The division and separation of a country mostly stem from political problems, as can be seen in the cases of North and South Korea, North and South Vietnam, etc. and not from any geophysical configuration. Separatist problems in the three most-southern provinces of Thailand date back to the history of the region. The development of a Kra Canal, on the contrary, would create national unity and strengthen national security.

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In the report entitled “The Kra Canal and Thai Security,” a Master’s thesis written by First Lieutenant Amornthep Thongsin (military decoration at that time). The thesis was submitted to the U.S. Naval Academy, Monterrey, California, U.S.A. and accepted in 2002. In his thesis, First Lieutenant Amornthep wrote that the top brass of the Thai military did not consider the Kra Canal Project a threat to the national security of Thailand in any way.
“Many former Navy officers have voiced their support for this project (building the Kra Canal – author of this article) as it would enhance Thailand’s sea power. For this reason, the project would therefore strengthen national security.” (4)
At present, Thailand has four naval bases: Bangkok, Sattahip, Songkhla and Phangna. With a coastline of 3,219 kms., its naval fleet consisting of 160 vessels of various types (figures from 2002) is not sufficient to efficiently guard the long coastline. The Royal Thai Navy has dockyards in Bangkok and at Sattahip, both of them in the Gulf of Thailand. Vessels operating out of Phangna Naval Base on the Andaman Sea and vessels belonging to Frigate Squadron One as well as those of the Coastal Patrol Squadron are on regular duty patrolling the Andaman Sea Coastline for a period of one year before re-joining their home fleet. The Phangna Naval Base finds itself often in a very precarious situation. When in need of urgent repair work, these vessels have to return to the Bangkok dockyard for service.

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