China's Beidou navigation system expands in Southeast Asia

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 April, 2013, 8:39am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 4:13am

Two more Southeast Asian countries have signed up to the Beidou satellite navigation system, China's alternative to the American GPS system.

Laos and Brunei will be adopting the navigation system in an initial stage through research and co-operation agreements, China's Ministry of Science and Technology said at the weekend.  

Earlier this month, Thailand became the first overseas customer of China's home-made navigation system when the two countries signed a similar deal.

The system already covers all of Southeast Asia and aims to cover the entire planet by 2020.

Beijing has spent billions of yuan on the project and already put 16 navigation satellites and four experimental satellites into space. An additional 40 satellites are to join the system in the coming decade, Ran Chengqi, spokesman for the China Satellite Navigation Office, told Xinhua.

The Ministry of Science and Technology did not indicate the cost of implementing the system in Laos or Brunei. The 2-billion-yuan bill (HK$2.5 billion) of bringing the system to Thailand is to be largely met by the Chinese government, Xinhua said.

The Beidou system is far from established in China. By 2015, it will have a market share of only 15 to 20 per cent in China, Ran said. That is expected to increase to 70 to 80 per cent by 2020.

The system has already been used overseas by China, when a Ministry of Public Security investigative unit successfully tracked rogue militia leader Naw Kham in Myanmar in 2011. He was eventually captured in Laos and executed this year in Kunming.

Laos' adoption of Beidou will help develop Southeast Asia's only landlocked country's agriculture, the science ministry said. The system could benefit renewed joint efforts to clamp down on the resurgent opium cultivation in Laos.

Amid rising opium prices, poppy cultivation in Laos' northern border provinces has increased by 66 per cent last year spreading more than 6,800 hectares, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.