• The relationship between Malaysia and Thailand should be seen as mutually beneficial, rather than a “zero-sum game,” said Transport Minister Anthony Loke.

KUALA LUMPUR (March 27): Malaysia is open to proposals to extend the East Coast Rail Line to the border and integrate it with the Thai rail network or future infrastructure, Transport Minister Anthony Loke said on Wednesday.

The relationship between Malaysia and Thailand should be seen as mutually beneficial, rather than a “zero-sum game,” Loke told the Senate. Both countries share political and economic challenges that provide opportunity for collaboration, he noted.

One of the areas for focus will be on enhancing connectivity in cargo and passenger transport networks between the two nations, Loke said. Malaysia is prepared to share the latest developments of the ECRL project with Thailand, he added.

The comments come as Thailand moots a massive one-trillion-baht (RM129 billion) Chumphon-Ranong Land Bridge project that could bypass the Malacca Straits and Singapore.

Thailand Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin proposed the CRLB project in November last year, which would see the construction of two Thai ports — Ranong in the West and Chumphon in the East, connected by road or rail — allowing ships to bypass Malaysian ports.

On Feb 16, the Thai parliament approved the proposed mega project report with a vote of 269 in favour versus 147 against, despite concerns having been raised about the land bridge’s environmental impact and profitability.

Efforts are also underway to improve connectivity between Malaysia's railway network operated by Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd and the State Railway of Thailand in anticipation of faster growth in movement of cargo and passengers, Loke said.

Further, Loke said collaboration in connecting railway networks with China through Laos is being explored, potentially boosting regional economic integration.

"The Ministry of Transport remains optimistic that Malaysia and Thailand can forge closer cooperation in transportation and national development, advancing mutual long-term interests rather than engaging in zero-sum competition," Loke added.

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