Monday, 9 November 2009

Border closure would hurt Thai traders more, PM says

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Cassava farmers sort their crop at a farm in Battambang province, which borders Thailand. Local authorities in Thailand initiated a blockade of the crop earlier this year, causing prices to plummet in the Kingdom.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 09 November 2009 15:01 Cheang Sokha

Hun Sen cites huge trade deficit with neighbouring Thailand.

PRIME Minister Hun Sen warned Thailand Sunday that Cambodia would stop buying its products if Bangkok followed through with a threat made Friday to close its border with the Kingdom.

Hun Sen said Cambodia had not initiated the possibility of sealing crossings between the two countries, suggesting that Thailand had a lot more to lose should relations sour further.

“If Thailand forces itself [to close the border gates], Cambodia will stop buying their products – we have goods imported from other countries,” Hun Sen said at a press conference at Phnom Penh International Airport after returning from First Mekong-Japan summit in Tokyo.

Bilateral trade between the two countries reached about US$2 billion last year, Hun Sen added.

Thailand’s exports to the Kingdom were worth just over $1 billion in the first eight months of the year, a drop of 30.29 percent on the same period last year and more than 25 times Cambodia’s exports in the other direction.

Up to the end of August, the Kingdom exported just $39 million in goods to Thailand, according to figures from the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh, mostly garments, unprocessed agricultural products, fish and recyclable metal.

“People from both sides will lose benefits [from closing border gates], but Cambodia will not face a huge income loss like Thailand,” said the prime minister, adding that such a move by Bangkok would be against the will of its own people.

He urged people along the border to continue trading as normal.

Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said Friday that his government would “maybe seal off all border checkpoints”, if Cambodia did not reverse its decision to appoint ousted former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra a special economic adviser to the government, according to an AFP report.

Thaksin is wanted for fraud in his native Thailand and would face a two-year sentence if extradited or apprehended by Thai authorities.

Hun Sen said Sunday that Thaksin would give a speech on economics Thursday at the Ministry of Economy and Finance in Phnom Penh, suggesting the row was only likely to escalate further.

There were no reports Sunday of trade being affected on the border by the deteriorating relationship between Phnom Penh and Bangkok.

Previous blockades
Cambodian farmers at the beginning of this year reported that their agricultural products – particularly rice and cassava – were being blocked by Thai authorities on the request of farmers across the border who complained their prices were being undercut.

However, such blockades were largely sporadic and appeared to be initiated at a local level rather than from the central Thai government.

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