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Thai canal
Kra Isthmus, Thailand

To dig or not to dig: The controversy surrounding Thailand’s mega canal

For centuries promoters of maritime commerce have proposed a canal across the Kra Isthmus in Southern Thailand. The proposal has gained renewed interest of late as growing congestion within the Straits of Malacca has created a bottleneck for regional and global shipping. A Thai canal would not only provide relief but reduce sailing time through Southeast Asia by two to three days. There are fears, however, that the canal’s proposed route would generate considerable environmental and social devastation, especially to critical habitats for endangered wildlife on both coasts and in protected areas within one of the world’s biological diversity hotspots.

With the help of Chinese interests in Thailand, the project has gained sufficient traction for Thailand’s Parliament to form a committee to evaluate the canal’s feasibility.

Award-winning journalist Anoontawas Bootin traveled with a camera and backpack along the canal’s 135-kilometer proposed route, capturing viewpoints from communities that would be impacted now that money is flowing into the region to promote the project. With support from EJN, Anoontawas produced a three-part series for Thai PBS that has been combined and edited into this single feature for international audiences.