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Avoiding Dire Straits in Southeast Asia

MIN READNov 17, 2017 | 15:35 GMT

Booming trade in the Strait of Malacca is breathing life once again into the idea of building a canal through Thailand's Kra Isthmus.

Booming trade in the Strait of Malacca is breathing life once again into the idea of building a canal through Thailand's Kra Isthmus.

(SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)

The notion of carving a canal across Thailand's Kra Isthmus has periodically enticed seafaring states around the world since it first surfaced in the 17th century. Today, the idea is gaining traction once again as traffic steadily increases and the threat of piracy looms large in the Strait of Malacca. The prospective waterway would bypass the choke point, joining the Andaman Sea in the Indian Ocean to the Gulf of Thailand in the Pacific and saving ships up to 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) in transit. Considering the unprecedented access to overseas export markets and oil supplies that the shortcut would afford them, regional powers such as China, Japan and South Korea are all keen to build the canal. Thailand is interested, too, since the project would fulfill an age-old ambition to establish the country as Southeast Asia's main trade hub and, by extension, to cement its strategic importance in the...

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