AP Radio AP Radio News:

Jun 16, 8:56 AM EDT

Thai PM gives order to fast-track Chinese-backed railway



Multimedia
Thailand Turmoil
Thailand sends Hmong back to Laos
Thailand's prime minister ousted
Fighting Between Buddhists, Muslims Intensifies in Thailand
Latest News
Thai gov't passes bill giving army say over future policies

Alleged Thai bomber says he did it to defy army government

Bomb planted in road kills 6 soldiers in southern Thailand

Thai PM gives order to fast-track Chinese-backed railway

Trial of mother of Thai student dissident begins

Multimedia
Video photo gallery on trash in China
China celebrates 60th year
Panorama of Tiananmen Square
Remembering Tiananmen
A year after China quake
Migrant laborers struggle to find work
Checking Beijing's Air
China's morning exercises in parks
Exploring Chinese Cuisine
Beijing Architecture Changes For Games
Woman Rescues Homeless Quake Dogs
China Holds Funeral for Panda
China's 1-child Policy Causes Extra Pain
Map of Earthquake Zone in Central China
Entrepreneurs Move Into, Out of China
Olypmics in Beijing Highlight China's Water Woes
Foreign Buyers Head to China Despite Problems
Coal Use Produces Pollution, Illness
Coal Means Profit, Woes for China
China Extending Its Reach Around the World
In China, the Desert Closes In
Latest News
AP Newsbreak: US, EU urge China to limit food import control

Gung-ho culture at tour agency Warmbier used on N.Korea trip

China invites Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner to visit Beijing

MSCI adds China-listed stocks to index in long awaited move

N. Korea, terrorism expected to feature at US-China dialogue

Audio Slideshow
Panorama of Tiananmen Square
Remembering Tiananmen

BANGKOK (AP) -- The head of Thailand's military government has used his special powers to cut through regulations and launch work on a much-delayed 179 billion baht ($5.27 billion) joint Thai-Chinese project for a new railway from Bangkok to the northeast.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha utilized Article 44 of the constitution imposed by the military after it seized power in May 2014. It allows him to issue orders overriding any other branch of government to promote public order and unity. Rights groups say it is essentially martial law in all but name.

The order, published late Thursday, covers construction of 252 kilometers (157 miles) to Nakhon Ratchasima. Extensions would eventually link Thailand's northern and southern borders, upgrading an antiquated system.

The rail project is part of China's "One Belt, One Road" project allowing cross-border development and connectivity among Asian countries, Africa, China and Europe.

Rail links are an important element of the concept, with China promoting expensive rail projects in Asia and Africa.

Prayuth said Thursday that his order will allow Chinese architects and engineers to begin work on the project without the need to meet Thai licensing restrictions.

The order also overrides a rule mandating that projects of over 5 billion baht ($147 million) be overseen by a committee and bypasses regulations about building in protected forest land, among other issues.

Transport Minister Arkhom Tempittayapaisith said Monday that once the order was issued, Thailand and China would be able to sign an agreement to begin construction by July.

The junta has been criticized for its frequent usage of Article 44, which was supposed to be for situations endangering public order.

Dr. Aksornsri Phanishsarn, director of the Thai Chinese Strategic Research Center, said she supports the railway construction project because it will be a good opportunity for Thailand to improve its railway system. However, she strongly disagreed with the government's use of Article 44.

"I do not agree with any attempts to invoke the absolute power of the current Thai government under Article 44 for whatever reasons," she said.

© 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.