Escalation of the Global Gas War. Part XIV

 

It is clear that this alternative route from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific ocean would be almost 1200km shorter than the extremely overloaded Strait of Malacca

 

The announcement that private companies from China and Thailand are ready to begin construction of the “Thai Canal” through the Kra Isthmus between the Andaman Sea and the South China Sea attracted a remarkable amount of attention in the international press, and understandably so.

The press was also able to get a hold of some details. Specifically, it turned out that the “Thai Canal” partnership chose not the shortest “northern” version of the canal, passing about 50km through the narrowest stretch of the Kra Isthmus, but the longer “southern” route, stretching about 100km.

This is a better option because, for starters, it can pass through the mountain chain extending along the Kra Isthmus via the valley corridor near the Malaysian border, and it does not require such extensive mountain excavation work. Secondly, this canal route leaves environmentally vulnerable areas on the isthmus practically untouched; and therefore, it is unlikely to draw heated protests from international ecological organizations.

That being said, the newspaper Oriental Daily noted that the construction of canal with a depth of 25m and a width of 400m would take no less than 10 years, and it would require around $28 billion in investments.

It is clear that a canal like this will be able to accommodate large vessels with large drafts, and that this alternative route from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean would be almost 1200km shorter than the extremely overloaded Strait of Malacca. It is also clear that China, if necessary, will be able to pass its entire natural gas and oil tanker import traffic through this canal, as well as a substantial part of its export sea freight to the Indian Ocean.

Notably, on the very day after the publication in Oriental Daily, May 19, official Beijing demonstratively distanced itself from the “Thai Canal” project. PRC Foreign Ministry representative Hong Lei said in his daily press briefing, that the Chinese government learned about the memorandum of cooperation the said project “from the media reports”, and that the Foreign Ministry of the PRC has “not heard of any plan of the Chinese government to take part in the project.” On the same day a spokeswoman of the Chinese embassy in Thailand underscored that as far as we know, the Chinese government and related agencies were not involved with any research or cooperation over building the canal.”

Let us note that this Chinese tactic is not new. For example, the Panama canal, linking the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans (which for the past century had been under the control of the United States) came under the control of the private Chinese company Hutchison Whampoa, belonging to Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, 15 years ago. Hutchison Whampoa won the Panamanian government tender to administer the canal, and it is now finishing its reconstruction with the aim of increasing its transit capacity and allowing vessels at maximum freight capacity and draft to pass through the canal.

Let us leave to the side the question of how independent private Chinese companies are of the State Council of the PRC and of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in these sorts of investment decisions. But, let us note that at the time of his securing control over the Panama Canal, Li Ka-shin sat on the board of directors of the China International Trust and Investment Corporation (СITIC), one of the largest Chinese investment banks, which was under control of the State Council of the PRC as the key bank of the People’s Liberation Army of China.

However, at the time of Hutchison Whampoa acquiring control of the Panama Canal, the US (whose ships are the principal users of the Panama Canal) was not in such a severe state of confrontation with China. Secondly, Panama is almost next door to the US and very far from China. And finally, according to its treaty with Panama, the United States is the guarantor of the Panama Canal’s neutrality, and it has the right to “the use of force” in the event of a threat to this neutrality. One can be assured that the USA will find a way to interpret the phrase “threat to neutrality” how it sees fit…

In terms of the future “Thai Canal” the US does not have this kind of rights and capabilities, at least for the time being. It is not unreasonable to consider that may not be the least important reason why Thailand has suffered two military coups in the past decade.

Possibly, this was the reason that the recalled US ambassador to Thailand, Kristie Kenney, whom the Thai military suspected of having excessive sympathy to the interests of the ruling Shinawatra family, was replaced in May 2, 2015 by Mr. Glyn Davies, who while serving as the Special Representative of the US Secretary of State on North Korea policy, skillfully maintained a maximum level of tension between Seoul and Pyongyang.

Possibly, this was in fact the reason why Pentagon chief Ashton Carter announced on May 31 in Singapore that the US plans to transfer new weapons systems to the South China Sea region. This includes the new Zumwalt-class destroyers, which incorporate stealth technology, and which are significantly more powerful than similar ships of previous classes.

Possibly, it was for this reason that a strong US military delegation headed by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter arrived in India on June 2 with the aim of renewing the framework agreement to guide the bilateral defense and strategic partnership for the next ten years” andexpedite discussions to take forward cooperation on jet engines, aircraft carrier design and construction, and other areas”. Notably, the American delegation began its visit with the largest Indian naval base in Visakhapatnam, on India’s southeastern coast. This base is located in the Bay of Bengal “next door” to the Chinese natural gas and oil pipeline in Myanmar and not far from the projected entrance to the “Thai Canal” from the Indian Ocean…

Finally, it is possible that for this same reason the southern part of the Kra Isthmus, through which lies the route of the future canal, has recently seen a major spike in Islamic terrorist activity.

The fact of the matter is that within the almost completely Buddhist Thailand, the southern part of the Kra Isthmus, bordering Islamic Malaysia, is home to 2 million Muslims. These Muslims have staged multiple separatist revolts during the past decade, and army units have been deployed there to suppress these rebellions. The Muslim separatist groups were partially destroyed and partially pacified, and Thailand’s military authorities began a gradual withdrawal of forces from the region in the autumn of 2014.

But it was there, in the southern provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani, and Yala that several large terrorist attacks once again took place in May of 2015.

On May 14-15, terrorists detonated 23 small improvised explosive devices in densely populated areas of the Yala Province. Nobody was killed as a result, but 38 people were injured, with many remaining hospitalized. Spokesmen for the Thai secret services stated that the goal for the terrorists was not to inflict casualties, but to intimidate the population.

On May 29 in Narathiwat Province, a bomb exploded near a road that a group of school children were crossing together with a security patrol. Two girls and four soldiers were wounded.

On May 30 in Pattani Province, a military vehicle hit a concealed landmine, injuring 7 soldiers. A second explosion occurred on arrival of an explosive ordinance disposal unit. One EOD specialist was killed and another four were injured.

On June 3 in Yala Province, a military vehicle came under fire from an ambush. Four soldiers were killed, and the assailants took their weapons with them.

Let us note, that these terrorist attacks happened in the context of an escalation of tension both in Thai domestic politics and in relations with the United States.

On May 22, 2015, on the anniversary of last year’s military coup, two protest rallies took place in Bangkok. The protesters, most of whom were students, were arrested, but soon released.

On May 24, representatives of all of the branches of the ruling Thai military made a joint refusal of the US request to leave aircraft belonging to the US Air Force and US Army units in Phuket Island’s international airport. These forces were previously participating in the international Guardian Sea antisubmarine exercises which concluded on May 20.

The USA explained their request citing the necessity of creating an operating base for American aircraft in order to expand the rescue operation in the Andaman Sea. They were referring to the rescue of thousands of Muslim refugees belonging to the Bengali Rohingya people from Myanmar, who are being oppressed by radical Buddhist groups and are trying to sail to Malaysia and Indonesia on fishing boats.

Thai authorities demanded that the US completely withdraw the US military contingent from Phuket by May 29, 2015. Let us note that the island of Phuket is located in the Andaman Sea practically adjacent to the section of the Kra Peninsula through which the “Thai Canal” is supposed to pass.

However, Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs, General Thanasak Patimaprakorn diplomatically stressed that Thailand’s decision does not mean completely abandoning cooperation with the United States in conducting rescue operations for the Rohingya refugees, which Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia jointly conduct in the Andaman Sea. The general said Thailand has to “take national security into consideration”, and he offered the United States to take part in additional air support for Thailand rescue operation, for which the landing platform dock ship Angthong has been deployed, along with two frigates and aircraft of the Royal Thai Navy and Royal Thai Air Force.”

In this way, one can see that the announcement of the Chinese-Thai plan to begin construction of the “Thai Canal” through the Kra Isthmus led to an abrupt escalation in terrorist activity and in the military-political situation around the canal route both in Thailand itself, and in the adjacent area of the Andaman Sea.

On the other side of the Kra Isthmus, in the South China Sea, the situation is far from peaceful and stable.

(To be continued…)

 

Source (for copy): http://eu.eot.su/?p=9397

 

This is the translation of the fourteenth (and final as of November 3, 2016) article (first published in “Essence of Time” newspaper issue 132 on June 17, 2015) by Yury Byaly of a series on the new round of global economic warfare. The ultimate goal of this war, of which gas wars is a part, is the weakening and dissolution of Russia. But disruption of Russian supply of gas will lead to lack of gas and rise of prices and some European economies might just not handle this. Since all of the global economy is intertwined, those who started this war want to make not just Russia, but many other countries become weaker in the end.

 

We encourage republishing of our translations and articles, but ONLY with mentioning the original article page at eu.eot.su (link above).
 
 
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