The National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC) plans to propose developing a Southern Economic Corridor to the new government in a similar fashion to the ongoing Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) scheme.

Thosaporn Sirisamphand, secretary-general of the NESDC, said the agency plans to propose concrete development projects for the southern corridor in tandem with the EEC.

“Thailand should develop the utmost potential of the country, especially its outstanding geography, which is a strong point of the nation,” Thosaporn said.

He said the southern project will develop agricultural products and tourism, two core strengths of the country.

The main project of the proposed corridor is a highway along the coast of the Gulf of Thailand to link with provinces along the Andaman Sea such as Krabi, Ranong and Trang.

The cabinet on March 6 last year gave the nod to the Royal Coast highway project.

The government plans a high-end tourism campaign in western coastal provinces to boost the income of local communities. On March 16, the cabinet approved 45 projects with 170 million baht from the fiscal 2019 budget, all small projects supporting community tourism.

Thosaporn said the government plans to develop a dual-track rail to connect Chumphon to Ranong, which has a deep-sea port, and it will serve as a gateway to the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec).

The framework aims to strengthen regional cooperation and enhance socioeconomic cooperation among the Southeast Asian and South Asian countries of Myanmar, Thailand, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka.

Thosaporn said the coastal road and the dual-track rail will be linked to the EEC, a site of oleochemical plants that add value to palm oil, a key product of the southern provinces.

“The government plans to create a supply chain of crude palm oil from the South to oleochemical complexes in the EEC because southern areas may not be suitable for large factories, while people in the South might not be willing to establish large factories,” he said.

Last August, the cabinet approved a framework for the southern corridor with the NESDC tasked with drawing up details of the development. The government aims to develop the scheme in an attempt to boost development in the South and increase the value of raw materials such as rubber and palm.

The southern high-speed rail between Bangkok and Hua Hin will be extended to Chumphon and Surat Thani. The Transport Ministry has already started a feasibility study and environmental impact assessment for the expansion project.