Business / Industries

Safety issues come to the fore as companies expand reach

By Zhao Yanrong in Bangkok (China Daily) Updated: 2016-01-21 13:35

Security issues could become a bigger concern for Chinese railway contractors as they expand their presence in Southeast Asia, according to regional development experts.

Three headline projects particularly have drawn attention to China's growing rail construction activity in the area in recent months.

The China-Lao railway project was launched in December with a ceremony in the capital Vientiane, and a China-Thailand railway project was inaugurated two weeks later in Ayutthaya, Thailand's ancient capital, 64 kilometers north of Bangkok.

Work on the much-heralded China-built high-speed rail link in Java in Indonesia, also starts this week. However, the recent terrorist attack in Jakarta, has raised the whole issue of the security surrounding such high-profile national projects.

As China expands its economic engagement with the world, the safety of its citizens working on overseas projects also faces growing challenges in places faced with major security concerns.

The issue came into sharp focus recently when three executives from China Railway Construction Corp were among the hostages killed in a terrorist attack in Bamako, Mali in November.

Kavi Chongkittavorn, a senior fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University in Thailand, said the Chinese authorities will be wary of the security arrangements in place for China's railway projects in Southeast Asia.

"Some countries have weaker security mechanisms than others. This could lead to more terrorist attacks," said Kavi.

Kumar Ramakrishna, head of policy studies in the executive vice-chairman's office of Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said the so-called Islamic State group has already expanded its influence into Southeast Asia.

To maintain peace and security in the region, the Bangkok Post reported recently that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations is dealing with the threats in two ways: targeting the real-time, physical threat, and targeting the underlying conditions that lead to the threat.

"Enhanced intelligence coordination is needed on terrorists' identities, their movement, and logistics and funding pipelines between and within governments in the region," Ramakrishna said.

Following the deadly attacks in Indonesia, its closest ASEAN neighbors have declared tightened security.

Malaysian police immediately raised its alert status to the "highest level". Increased security measures are now in place at all the country's public locations, such as shopping malls and tourist spots, and added precautionary action has been introduced at border crossings.

The Immigration Bureau of Thailand has also introduced special teams to examine passports more thoroughly at airports.

"ASEAN is facing polarization among its dialogue partners which will impact its overall relationship, so the organization has to manage these relations," said Chongkittavorn.

He expects economic and people-to-people exchanges within ASEAN member states to be heightened, with the sharing of security intelligence to become more prevalent.

And pivotal to that, he said, will be making sure there is also strong cooperation among Chinese railway companies, and other Chinese companies operating in the region, with both government officials and project stakeholders at ground level.

Hot Topics

Editor's Picks