Thai Farmers Hold Up Cassava Shipment Near Border Crossing

Hundreds of Thai farmers have since Tuesday been blocking the road on the Thailand side of the Boeng Trakoun border crossing in Banteay Meanchey province, preventing Cambodian farmers and trucking companies from transporting cassava to Thailand, officials said yesterday.

An estimated 43 trucks carrying 1,702 tons of Cambodian cassava have been blocked from entering Thailand, said Nou Yorth, chief of the Boeng Trakoun checkpoint monitoring office. If the cassava is not allowed into Thailand today the crops will be ruined, he said.

The blockade is part of an ongoing dispute between Thai farmers and big transport companies.

Thai farmers had previously demanded that they be allowed to enter Cambodia and transport the cassava, which can be used to produce ethanol biofuel, back to Thailand themselves in order to make more profit. Cambodian authorities, however, have agreed to allow Thai trucking companies to transport the cassava from Cambodia, and the farmers are now blocking the road in an attempt to ban the big trucks from hogging all the business.

Cassava plantations cover about 20,000 hectares of Banteay Mean­chey province and most cassava farmers in the area depend on exports to Thailand, where both demand and prices for the product are higher, said Heng Bunhor, director of the Banteay Meanchey agricultural department.

One hectare of land can produce as much as 25 tons of cassava, with one ton selling for 1,000 baht, about $30, in Thailand, he said.

There are two border crossings in the province. All agricultural products, however, must go through the Boeng Trakoun crossing, which makes it easy for the Thai villagers to prevent export, said Hun Hean, provincial police chief.

“They are Thai citizens who are protesting because they don’t have the opportunity to transport the agricultural products,” he said.

Jiranun Wongmongkol, the officer in charge of commercial affairs for the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh, said she was unaware of villagers protesting but added that, if anything, Thai authorities would welcome more cassava exported from Cambodia.

(Additional reporting by Cajsa Collin)

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