A Change of Guard

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Saturday 29 August 2015

Despite Conflict, Cambodia’s Borders Continue to Open

Khmer Times/James Reddick Thursday, 27 August 2015 

Border trade with Vietnam is rapidly opening up as Cambodia prepares for the Asean Economic Community common market this year.Photo: Charles Wiriawan

PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – The opposition has accused Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government of a litany of sins, including ceding territory and allowing Vietnamese companies to exploit Cambodian resources. 

Despite the insistent back and forth between the Cambodian National Rescue Party and the Cambodian People’s Party on territorial issues, regional borders are as open as ever, experts say. And with the implementation of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) open market due this year, the ease of crossing borders should continue to increase. 

“There will only be more connected-ness,” said Chan Sophal, the president of the Cambodia Economic Institute. “I think that’s a good thing.” 

The Ministry of Public Works is upgrading its facilities along the border to speed up the processing of trucks and buses.

Pheng Sovicheano, a spokesman for the ministry, says it has finished constructing a border facility in Kampot.

The Vietnamese are still working on construction on their side. Two more facilities, which are designed to handle a heavy volume of traffic, are planned along Road 314d and Road Number 3. The public works ministry is also working on a border facility with Thailand that should increase traffic flow to the west.

Infrastructure developments along the border coincide with ever-improving transportation networks.

A paved highway now links Bangkok to Southern Vietnam via the Cambodian coast, and a proposed Japanese railway project would connect Cambodia to Myanmar. 

“You can see improvement every day,” Mr. Sovicheano said.

In 2005, Vietnam and Cambodia signed an agreement that allows 500 licensed buses and trucks to cross the border twice in a day. On the Thailand border, however, the quota remains at 60. Now, the Thai and Cambodian governments are discussing a plan to grant more licenses. 

Bilateral trade with Thailand reached $5 billion last year.  

An open visa

As a part of its Asean integration, Cambodia is also working with its neighbors to ease visa restrictions. 

After years of discussions between the Thai and Cambodian foreign ministries, a “two kingdoms, one visa” policy just recently went into effect.

It will now be possible for tourists with a Thai visa to travel freely in Cambodia, and vice versa. Luu Meng, co-chairman of the Government Private Sector Working Group on Tourism, says that the government is discussing making a similar arrangement for tourists traveling to Vietnam. 

Neither the Foreign Ministry nor the Ministry of Tourism were available for comment. 

“It’s a win-win situation,” Mr. Meng said. “It’s better for our neighbors and it’s better for us.”  

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