Remote Provinces To Hook Up With Laos, VN

Work is underway to incorporate the northeastern provinces of Ra­­tanakkiri, Mondolkiri and Stung Treng into economic part­ner­­ship with bordering provinces in Laos and Vietnam, said Sok Si­pha­na, se­cre­tary of state for the Min­istry of Com­merce.

The triangular strategy, inked last year by Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Laotian and Viet­na­mese counterparts at an Asean sum­­­mit in Vientiane in November, will bring increased agriculture to three remote provinces and ease cross-border trade between the three neighboring countries, he said July 6.

“On the Cambodian side there’ll be a lot of plantations, coffee and spice,” Sok Siphana said.

“On the ground, roads will be built. If we form a synergy, we can do more business among those pro­­­vinces,” he said, adding that each country has remote border pro­­vinces that are partly cut off from their own country’s economy and can benefit from each other.

Formal documentation of exactly what kinds of development the long-rumored agreement will bring has not yet been made public.

Ly Quang Bich, political counse­lor at the Vietnamese Embassy, said the agreement will combine com­­bating deforestation with grow­­ing coffee plants.

“It will be a cooperation in plant-ing trees and preserving the for­ests,” he said. He added that the three countries will also cooperate on comba­ting “cross-border hu­man trafficking.”

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said he was skeptical of the pro­ject, adding that increased co­op­eration with Vietnam around the bor­der may make it harder for Mon­­tagnard asylum-seekers to find sanctuary here.

Some observers have warned that the agreement could cause further people to be forced off their land in the three provinces.

“For development to be positive, the impact on local livelihoods and culture must be the paramount con­sideration,” Russell Peterson of NGO Forum said.


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