BANGKOK, Feb 5 -- As fresh fighting at the disputed Thai-Cambodian border erupted, the Thai Commerce Minister Pornthiva Nakasai has decided to postpone a Thai goods exhibition scheduled to be held in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh for an indefinite period, a spokesman for the ministry said.
The spokesman said Ms Pornthiva had ordered the four-day exhibition–which was scheduled to start on February 17–to be postponed due to security concerns following deadly fighting at the disputed border which began on Friday.
The postponement of the exhibition, aimed at strengthening economic, trade and investment between the two neighbouring countries, has already forced some Thai manufacturers who were supposed to attend the fair to cancel their participation.
Both Thai and Cambodian troops on Friday afternoon exchanged gunfire and artillery near the disputed 11th century Preah Vihear temple. Fresh clashes continued early Saturday.
Meanwhile, Thai Chamber of Commerce (TCC) deputy chairman Niyom Waiyaratchapanich said it had to see in detail why the border clashes broke out.
The TCC did not want to see the fighting escalate. Although Cambodia and Thailand had a misunderstanding in some cases, bilateral trade continued as usual.
He said the private sector believed both countries did not want checkpoints to be closed because it could adversely affect bilateral trade.
In the past, he conceded, the border conflicts had impacted tourism and investment rather than trade.
Mr Niyom said the investment in Cambodia by Thai people had declined to the 9th rank from the 3rd-4th positions due to the political and border conflicts.
Previously, more than 200,000 Thai people had travelled to Cambodia annually. Now, the number has been reduced to around 2,000.
Thai-Cambodian trade totaled 50 billion baht in value last year. Of this, 47 billion baht are of exports to Cambodia and the remaining Bt3 billion are that of imports.
“It is a pity the investment in Cambodia by Thailand continues to decline while that by China and Vietnam is on the rise. So, the private sector wants both neighboring countries to turn to negotiations to end their conflicts quickly,” Mr Niyom said.