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Thailand pins growth hopes on massive investment along east coast

Ruling junta promises to spend $54 billion on infrastructure projects

Rob Higby, CEO of TurbineAero, left, and Thai technicians with an auxiliary power unit undergoing maintenance at TurbineAero’s Thai factory near U-Tapao (Photo by William Mellor)

U-TAPAO, Thailand -- Worapol Tongpricha, a naval rear admiral dressed in a smart business suit, stands in the center of a sprawling former U.S. military base and marvels at its unlikely rehabilitation.

During the Vietnam War, heavily laden American B-52 bombers took off from U-Tapao's 3.5-km runway on raids to flatten enemy targets in Vietnam and Laos. Today, the airstrip and some 27 square km of adjoining land are key elements in a $54 billion plan to transform Thailand's economy.

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