Thailand's longest bridge built under former PM Thaksin, not during Prayut's tenure

Social media posts shared repeatedly in Thailand falsely claim that the country's longest bridge was built during Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha's tenure. Several people involved in the bridge's development have separately told AFP it was built before Prayut came to power in 2014, during the rule of Thaksin Shinawatra.

"You must be deaf and blind if you say that there have been no changes in the past eight years. Prayut's achievement: Chaloem Phrakiat 80 Phansa Bridge, the longest river bridge in Thailand," reads a Facebook post on June 19, 2023.

Prayut Chan-O-Cha took office as Thailand's leader after the military coup in 2014 (archived link).

The post was shared over 100 times and includes four photos of Thailand's longest bridge -- the Chaloem Phrakiat 80 Phansa Bridge -- which spans 5.5 kilometres (three miles) across Songkhla Lake and connects southern Phatthalung province's Khuan Khanun district and neighbouring Songkhla province's Ranot district (archived link).

Screenshot of the false post, taken June 27, 2023

The false claim circulated after Thai voters roundly rejected Prayut-led military rule in May's general elections, with progressive opposition outfits Move Forward Party (MFP) and Pheu Thai now dominating in parliament's lower house.

On June 27, MFP leader Pita Limjaroenrat said he had garnered enough support from the Senate -- whose 250 members were handpicked by the last junta -- to replace Prayut as prime minister, AFP reported (archived link). Parliament is set to vote on the prime minister in mid-July.

Similar false claims were also shared on Facebook here and here, and on TikTok here, here and here.

The pictures shared alongside the false posts were published by Thai news site Sanook on June 16, 2023 under the headline "The Chaloem Phrakiat 80 Phansa Bridge: The longest river bridge in Thailand", but the report does not state the bridge was built by Prayut (archived link).

Several people involved in the bridge's development told AFP the project was developed and completed in the late 2000s, before Prayut took office.

Approved during Thaksin administration

The bridge, originally known as the Ban Sai Kling-Ban Hua Pa Road, was part of the "Master Plan for Songkhla Lake Basin Development" approved by the Thai cabinet in June 2003 (archived link).

At that time, Thailand's prime minister was Thaksin Shinawatra, who was in office from 2001 to 2006 before he was ousted in a military coup. He has lived in exile since then (archived links here and here).

Komest Thongbunchu, a former committee member of the Songkhla Lake Basin development project, told AFP the bridge was part of the Songkhla development project.

"It was chaired by Gen. Chavalit Yongchaiyudh that proposed to then-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and the cabinet, who approved the budget for the development," he said.

Wichai Kanchanasuvarna, former director at the Institute of Peace Studies at Prince of Songkla University, also told AFP the project was carried out several years before Prayut came into power.

He was a co-author of a report published in 2005 that detailed how the Songkhla Lake Basin development project came about (archived link).

"I assuredly confirm that the bridge was built a very long time ago, before Prayut became prime minister," Wichai said.

Another professor at Prince of Songkla University, Narit Doungsuwan, also told AFP the bridge was developed during Thaksin's government, not Prayut's.

"Yes, the bridge was built during Thaksin's government. I was one of the committee members," Narit said on June 23.

Completion in 2006

A keyword search found a contract for the bridge's development on the archived website of the now-defunct Department of Rural Roads website.

The contract shows the project received a budget of 549 million baht ($15.5 million). It also states the development's contract began in September 2004 and terminated in August 2006.

Further searches on the company contracted to build the bridge, A.S. Associated Engineering Company Limited, found it completed the structure in 2006 (archived link).

Below is a screenshot of the company's web page about the project that lists the bridge's completion date on August 22, 2006.

Screenshot of the company's web page on the bridge project

The bridge opened to the public for the first time on January 9, 2007, according to an official website of Songkhla's Ranod city, where it is located (archived link).

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