Kra Isthmus

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The Isthmus of Kra

The Kra Isthmus is the narrow landbridge which connects the Malay Peninsula with the mainland of Asia. The east part of the landbridge belongs to Thailand, the west part belongs to the Tanintharyi division of Myanmar. To the west of the Isthmus is the Andaman Sea, to the east is the Gulf of Thailand.

The narrowest part between the estuary of the Kra river and the bay of Sawi near the city Chumphon has a width of 44km, and has a maximum altitude of 75m above sea level. The Isthmus is named after the city Kra Buri, in the Ranong province of Thailand, which is located at the west side of the narrowest part.

The Isthmus of Kra marks the boundary between two parts of the central cordillera, the mountain chain which runs from Tibet through all of the Malay peninsula. The southern part is called the Phuket chain, the northern part is the Tenasserim chain, which continues for 400km until the Three Pagodas Pass.

Kra Canal

As the Malay Peninsula enlarges the shipping routes around Asia significantly, a canal through the Kra Isthmus was suggested as early as 1677, when the Thai King Narai the Great asked the French engineer de Lamar to survey the possibility of building a waterway to connect Songkhla with Marid (now Myanmar). It turned out to impractical with the technology of that time. In 1793 the idea resurfaced when the younger brother of King Chakri (Rama I) suggested it to make it easier to protect the western coast with military ships. Also in the early 18th century the British East India Company became interested in a canal. After Burma became British colony in 1863 with Victoria Point opposite the Kra estuary as its southernmost point, an exploration was undertaken, again with negative result. In 1882 the constructor of the Suez canal, Ferdinand de Lesseps, visited the area, but wasn't allowed to investigate in detail by the Thai king. In 1897 Thailand and the British empire agreed not to build a canal there, to protect the regional dominance of the harbour of Singapore.

In the 20th century the idea resurfaced several times again, now changing the preferred route to connect the Bandon Bay near Surat Thani with Phangnga. The idea is still entertained by a few Thai politicians today, however the high costs as well as ecological problems make it unlikely to be realized in the near future. Instead currently the construction of a railroad connection between Surat Thani and Phuket is discussed.

In 2005 however, an internal report prepared for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was leaked to The Washington Times, spelling out China's strategy of underwriting construction of the $20 billion canal across the Kra Isthmus complete with Chinese port facilities, as part of its string of pearls strategy of forward bases and energy security [1] (

External links

de:Isthmus von Kra id:Tanah genting Kra nl:Landengte van Kra zh:克拉地峡


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