$40 Million Thai Loan for Road Is Still on Track, Officials Say

Thailand’s multimillion-dollar loan for a project to repair Nat­ional Road 68 is still on the table, officials said yesterday, despite the Cambodian government’s announcement that it was ending the agreement.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva called Cambodian Pre­mier Hun Sen on Friday and asked him not to cancel the nearly $40 million loan, said Siem Reap Provincial Governor Sou Phirin. Mr Phirin said Mr Hun Sen agreed but told the Thai leader to send his assurance of the loan in a written letter.

“The loan is not a problem. We can continue,” he said.

On Friday, the Cambodian Fo­reign Affairs Ministry notified Thai­land that the government had “de­cided to annul this loan Agree­ment” but gave no reason for the abrupt cancellation. The agreement was originally signed in late August to finance repairs of National Road 68, which connects Siem Reap pro­vince’s Kra­lanh district with the town of O’Smach near the Thai border in Oddar Meanchey province.

After the appointment in Oct­ober of fugitive Thai ex-Premier Thaksin Shinawatra as an adviser to Mr Hun Sen, Thailand an­nounced that it would review bilateral aid and agreements between the two nations.

Mr Hun Sen is scheduled to at­tend a Dec 5 groundbreaking ceremony kicking off construction on the 113-km-long roadway. Mr Phirin said the event would take place whether the Thai loan was finally secured or not.

Reports from Bangkok cited Thai officials denying the loan was headed for the chopping block and called the incident a misunderstanding. The Thai premier was reported saying his cabinet has not decided to alter plans to offer the loan.

“There was some confusion. On one hand, they wanted us to confirm we would lend them the money and on the other hand, they were afraid we would not extend the loan to them. So they opted to cancel the loan first,” Mr Abhisit was quoted Saturday as saying in yesterday’s issue of the Bangkok daily The Nation.

“If there had been proper coordination, there would have been no problem. I think the problem will be sorted out in the end.”

A Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesman could not be reached.


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