Japan and China have become locked in a subtle competition for increased influence in Southeast Asia. And Thailand has played a part in intensifying such competition. Seeking to cement ties with Japan and China to lessen the impact of Western sanctions, the Thai junta has allowed the two countries to exploit its political crisis for their national interests. Thailand has undoubtedly emerged as the region's critical playground for the Sino-Japanese rivalry.

Investments in mega-projects is one key area in which Japan and China have competed fiercely in Thailand. The two countries have their eyes particularly on high-speed train projects, which could earn them billions of dollars.

Late last year, China began the first phase of construction of Thailand's first ever high-speed railway from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima province in the northeastern region. The junta rushed to celebrate the success of Chinese investment after years of debating whether Thailand was ready for such a mega-project.