Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Belt and Road gathers steam

Belt and Road gathers steam

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
China’s President Xi Jinping raises his glass after proposing a toast at the end of a speech at the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing on Friday. Nicolas ASFOURI/AFP

Belt and Road gathers steam

Last week I followed with interest the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing.

The president of Bangkok Bank Chartsiri Sophonpanich joined both the first forum in 2017 and this one, and he spoke at the Belt and Road Bankers’ Roundtable (BRBR) on both occasions, which I also joined.

In 2017, the forum was attended by 29 heads of state, along with representatives from many countries, including Thailand.

This year nearly 40 heads of state joined, including the leaders of all 10 Asean countries.

Clearly, interest and engagement in the BRI has steadily increased.

At the time of the 2017 forum there were around 100 participating countries – this had grown by the end of last year to more than 122 nations and 29 international organisations.

There were a number of points of particular interest to me at the forum.

One was the strong emphasis on green finance, which was one of the more frequently noted themes during the bankers’ meeting.

A working group had prepared ahead-of-time guidelines of Green Investment Principles for the Belt and Road, and these stated that “it is a common responsibility of global financial institutions to make green investment, reduce polluting investment and promote green economic transformation and sustainable development of the investment destination”.

These guidelines were further endorsed by the BRBR last week.

This endorsement is significant given that the main thrust of the Belt and Road is infrastructure development.

To give an idea of how fast things are developing, in 2018 the cumulative number of trips made by China-Europe freight trains exceeded 12,000, with annual shipments reaching $16 billion.

This compared with only 17 trips and less than $600 million in 2011.

And it is still only early days as there are many projects in the pipeline, including the high-speed rail link between China, Laos and Thailand.

Since these kinds of big projects have high potential for disruption to the environment and local communities, the commitment to green investment principles such as proper environmental assessments and responsible lending is encouraging.

In his speech to the BRBR, Chartsiri discussed how improved infrastructure and greater connectivity within Asean and to China would enhance economic development across the region, and he welcomed the improved mechanisms for cooperation which will provide support in financing such projects.

Thailand had an important role to play at the Belt and Road Forum since it is the current chair of Asean.

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha met President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang to discuss further cooperation between Asean and China, and he presented the Master Plan on Asean connectivity.

Thailand also signed a Memorandum of Cooperation on the China-Laos-Thailand rail link and requested that Thailand’s initiatives to develop the Eastern Economic Seaboard (EEC) be recognised as part of the BRI.

Many other parts of the world have already dovetailed the Belt and Road with their own development programmes – for example the EU’s Juncker Investment Plan and the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union. These provide precedents to Thailand’s request.

The formal inclusion of the EEC in the BRI would be bound to attract more finance and investment to Thailand, so let’s hope this initiative is successful. The Nation (Thailand/Asia News Network)

Suwatchai Songwanich is the CEO of Bangkok Bank (China).


  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Pursat Ford assembly plant opens

    The Kingdom’s first Ford assembly plant was inaugurated on June 16 in Pursat province amid rising demand for brand-new vehicles among Cambodians. The facility is seen as a game changer for the domestic automobile industry, which could bring a wave of investors seeking to cash

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • Siem Reap’s $18M zoo said to educate public, help wildlife

    Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Co Ltd has invested $18 million in a zoo in Siem Reap province, which will be opened in October to educate and promote animal conservation as well as attract national and international tourists. Currently, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is building the

  • Angkor photo rules clarified

    The Apsara National Authority (ANA) denied that it had banned the use of camera tripods in the Angkor Archaeological Park, explaining that the confusion stemmed from a long-standing rule which required commercial photographers and videographers to apply for permission to film. The explanation followed a

  • $50B infrastructure plan en route

    The government’s upcoming $50 billion,10-year infrastructure master plan will provide tremendous investment opportunities for domestic and foreign entities, transport experts and economists say. Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol revealed the plan to Japanese ambassador to Cambodia Masahiro Mikami on June 15. At