Banteay Meanchey Welcomes Thai Plans for Border Trade

A Banteay Meanchey provincial official yesterday said a proposal from Thailand to link a pair of special economic zones on either side of the border with a new checkpoint could lead to well over 100,000 new jobs here.

Though the idea of a checkpoint near Poipet City had been proposed years ago, deputy provincial governor Em Phoansophal said, the prospect of an SEZ across the border to join the one under way in Poipet City was new.

Thai Deputy Commerce Minister Alongkorn Ponlaboot mentioned the plan on Sunday during his visit to Cambodia, the first from a Thai official since the two countries normalized diplomatic relations last week.

“The plan to open the new checkpoint was proposed when Thaksin [Shinawatra] was in power, but after the problem it was put on hold,” Mr Phoansophal said, referring to the former Thai prime minister.

He said Cambodia and Thailand still had to decide how to replace three missing border posts at the site of the proposed checkpoint. But with diplomatic relations restored, Cambodian officials hope to settle the matter soon.

Once open, Mr Phoansophal said, the new checkpoint would be reserved for commerce while the nearest checkpoint now open, about 30 km away, would handle tourist traffic only.

He said the firm behind the O’Neang SEZ had already paved a road and built a jewelry factory. With an SEZ on the Thai side of the border to match, he said the entire plan promised to create 120,000 new jobs for Cambodians.

During his visit, Mr Alongkorn put the figure in the tens of thousands, and said he would propose the new SEZ to Thai ministers in a matter of months.

Kong Putheara, the Commerce Ministry’s director of information and trade statistics, said Mr Alongkorn had also proposed expediting the inspection of commercial traffic across the border and creating joint chambers of commerce between provinces on either side of the border.

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