The Southern Economic Corridor is a proposed transport route that would connect the port of Dawei in Myanmar to ports in Vietnam, via Thailand and Cambodia. This is an alternative route to the East-East Economic Corridor.
[Map via anz.com.]
The Southern Economic Corridor route goes from Dawei to Bangkok and then on to Aranyaprathet on the Thailand-Cambodia border. From this point, there have been two proposed routes. One goes via Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City, while another route goes via Siem Reap, Pleiku in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, and Quy Nhon.
A third route follows the coast of the Gulf of Thailand from Bangkok to Ca Mau in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam.
[Southern Economic Corridor map via greatermekong.org.]
This report is related to proposed railways through this corridor, so it only covers news related to possible railways. Different sections have been proposed over the years that would eventually make a complete railway from Myanmar to Vietnam.
While it’s not advertised as such, a railway in the Southern Economic Corridor would enable a Bangkok – Phnom Penh – Ho Chi Minh City railway for the first time.
Myanmar – Thailand
Dawei – Bangkok
In 2015 Japan announced that it would help build a standard gauge high-speed railway on the Myanmar and Thailand sections of the Southern Economic Corridor. This would be a standard-gauge railway with a speed of more than 200 km/h.
Bangkok – Aranyaprathet
There is already a Bangkok – Aranyaprathet line using a metre-gauge railway. If the proposed Japanese railway is built it could be a replacement railway, or be like the Bangkok-Nong Khai high-speed railway that will run separately from the current metre-gauge line.
Cambodia – Vietnam
Poipet – Phnom Penh – Ho Chi Minh City – Vung Tau
There is already a railway from Poipet to Phnom Penh, and the line reconnected to the Thailand railway in 2019. A train service connecting the two countries was set to begin, and then the COVID-19 pandemic broke out.
The current Cambodian railway is also a metre-gauge, so it would not be connected to the new line.
The Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City section remains as one of the great missing links of the Trans-Asian Railway, and there has been numerous announcements over the years for a proposed railway. This link has its own resource page at Ho Chi Minh City – Phnom Penh Railway.
The Vietnamese government is planning to build a railway from Ho Chi Minh City to the nearby port at Vung Tau, thus completing this port-to-port railway.
One of the advantages of this route over the East-West Economic Corridor is that it would link the biggest cities in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. With a further extension to Yangon, it would then be possible to have a Yangon-Bangkok-Phnom Penh-Ho Chi Minh City railway.
[Map via bangkokpost.com.]
Poipet – Siem Reap – Pleiku – Quy Nhon
Another branch of the Southern Economic Corridor was proposed that would go via Siem Reap and Stung Treng in Cambodia, and Pleiku and Quy Nhon in Vietnam. This proposal has been for a road connection, with no serious proposal for a railway.
[Map via bangkokpost.com.]
There has been a proposal for a Phnom Penh – Siem Reap line, with a possible extension to Poipet to connect to Thailand. Stung Treng has been mentioned as being connected to a line that would connect Pakse in Laos to Phnom Penh. This is an inter-corridor link that would connect the East-West Economic Corridor to the Southern Economic Corridor.
This branch of the corridor ends at the Nhon Hoi Economic Zone near the city of Quy Nhon. An oil refinery covering 2,000 hectares was planned here in 2013, which was then postponed in 2016. There is no further mention of connecting a railway to this economic zone.
Read more about future Cambodian railways.
China puts Belt and Road back on ASEAN agenda – [11/11/22]
“Among them is a $1.6 billion expressway to be built from Phnom Penh to Bavet, at the Cambodian-Vietnamese border, and backing for a rail link between Phnom Penh, Bangkok and Vientiane, Laos, from which a high-speed rail link has already been constructed into China.”
GMS 1 SEC The Southern Economic Corridor Development – [24/08/17]
“The Southern Economic Corridor (SEC) runs through southern Thailand, Cambodia, and southern Viet Nam. Originally, the SEC consisted only of one route the Bangkok-Phnom Penh-Ho Chi Minh City-Vung Tau corridor. Other routes were included under the SEC, at the request of member countries. The GMS Transport Sector Strategy Study discusses this in further detail.”
– The Central Sub-Corridor. Bangkok (Thailand) – Phnom Penh (Cambodia) – Ho Chi Minh City (Viet Nam) – Vung Tau (Viet Nam);
– The Northern Sub-Corridor. Bangkok – Siem Reap – Stung Treng – Rattanakiri – O Yadov – Pleiku – Quy Nhon Northern Sub-corridor; and
– The Southern Coastal Sub-Corridor. Bangkok – Trat (Thailand) -Koh Kong – Kampot (Cambodia) – Ha Tien – Ca Mau – Nam Can (Viet Nam).
An important inter-corridor link is the Southern Lao PDR – Sihanoukville Subcorridor: Dong Kralor – Stung Treng – Kratie – Phnom Penh – Sihanoukville (Cambodia).”
Massive Dawei corridor set to span four nations – [09/03/16]
Mekong-Japan Action Plan for realization of the New Tokyo Strategy 2015 [PDF] – [05/08/15]
“Japan and Thailand will implement steadily…cooperation on the development and/or improvement of the railway infrastructure along the Southern Economic Corridor (KanchanaburiBangkok, Bangkok-Chachoengsao-Aranyaprathet, and BangkokChachoengsao-Laem Chabang)”.
Thai-Japan railway to link Burma & Cambodia – [28/01/15]
“Thailand and Japan have agreed in principle on joint development of a 1.435-metre standard-gauge rail network linking a border village in Kanchanaburi with Cambodia.”
“…Japan wants to develop a genuine high-speed train with a speed of more than 200 km/h”.
Tokyo to help with east-west rail link – [28/01/15]
“Tokyo was willing to invest in the route to connect the Dawei project in Myanmar to Cambodia via Ban Phu Nam Ron in Kanchanaburi, Bangkok, Chachoengsao and Sa Kaeo’s Aranyaprathet district.”
One thing to be sure, the section from Phitsanuloke to Khon Kaen is unlikely to be executed any time soon so long there are the serious EIA issues for any railway lines through National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuary including Nam Nao National park, Phu Hin Rongkla National Park.