Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Private sector has four proposals to ease border tensions

via CAAI

By Petchanet Pratruangkrai
The Nation
Published on April 27, 2011

Thai businesspeople, fearing that the border clashes between Thailand and Cambodia will harm bilateral trade and investment if they drag on much longer, will make four proposals to the government aimed at easing tensions.

The Joint PrivateSector Committee will make the proposals to Deputy Prime Minister Trairong Suwankhiri soon, it announced yesterday.

The first proposal is that the government carefully consider closing border checkpoints as well as cutting the supply of electricity to Cambodia. Second, concerned agencies and media should be more careful with the release of information that could intensify the conflict.

Third, the two countries should find ways to compromise over the disputed territory to ensure further border trade. Finally, economic and security issues should be clearly separated to reduce tension or conflict between the two countries.

Payungsak Chartsutipol, chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries, said the business sector still had confidence that the border conflict will be eased soon.

"People of the two nations are considered relatives. Nobody wants to see war or any fight," he said.

The closure of checkpoints should be considered only at a certain point and for a short period; otherwise, it would affect overall trading and people's confidence, Payungsak said.

Despite the conflict, private enterprises of Thailand and Cambodia have insisted on setting up the ThaiCambodian Business Council to strengthen trade and investment growth.

Thanit Sorat, secretarygeneral of the council and vice chairman of the FTI, said private enterprises were conducting business activities as usual although the tension has decreased investors' confidence.

Bilateral trade is expected to grow continuously to more than Bt85 bilฌlion this year from last year's Bt79.26 billion. However, Thanit said prolonged fighting would not only affect investment but also lower the value of bilateral trade between the two countries, particularly crossborder trade.

For instance, Thanit pointed out that Thai investment in Cambodia had shrunk considerably over the past few years because of the border conflict. Only one project from Thailand worth Bt30 million was approved by the Cambodia Investment Board last year.

From August 1995 to June 2009, 81 Thai projects have been launched in Cambodia with a combined investฌment value of Bt7.02 billion. Of these, nine projects are hotels worth Bt4.29 billion, followed by agriculturalindustry schemes worth Bt2.34 bilฌlion, and garmentindustry projects worth Bt221 million.

Bilateral trade between Thailand and Cambodia was worth Bt79.26 billion last year. Of that, Bt55.41 billion was from crossborder trade, of which exports from Thailand were valued at Bt51.11 billion.

The flareup at the border has hit the tourism industry hardest, as tourists have cancelled their bookings to Cambodia. Eventually, it will directly harm inbound tourism from Cambodia as well.

Thailand is projected to boost crossborder trade with Cambodia by 8 per cent to Bt59 billion this year. Crossborder trade with that country accounts for 7.09 per cent of the Kingdom's total crossborder trade value.

Poonsak Kunudom, counsellor for the Thai Trade Representative in Phnom Penh, said bilateral trade between Thailand and Cambodia was still growing normally.

The Commerce Ministry's Export Promotion Department has no plans to cancel the Thailand Trade Exhibition 2011, which will be held from May 1922 in Phnom Penh.

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