Thailand's Prayuth aims for bullet trains, election

BANGKOK - Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha ultimately hopes to bring Japan's bullet trains to Thailand and thinks that a general election could be held by year-end, he told reporters Friday.

Prayuth met with Japanese media outlets here ahead of an official visit to Japan starting Sunday. He is scheduled to hold a summit with his counterpart there, Shinzo Abe, on Monday.

Thailand has agreed to jointly construct two long-distance rail routes with China: one from its northeastern border with Laos to the east, the other from Bangkok to the country's central regions. It may also join hands with Japan over an east-west route, connecting its eastern regions, Bangkok and its western border with Myanmar.

Prayuth stressed that even though Thailand has signed an agreement with China, Japan need not worry. He expressed hopes to conduct feasibility studies for a project with Japan and to search for possible areas of cooperation, including funding.

The previous prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, had shown interest in introducing Japan's bullet trains. Prayuth acknowledged the trains' strengths but pointed out that Thailand faces budgetary constraints. He first plans to lay multiple tracks along existing railroads and then adopt the so-called standard gauge, used widely for high-speed heavy transportation. Prayuth sees the introduction of high-speed trains as the final step.

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