Vietnamese officials have proposed investing $10 million to develop a second international border crossing between Cambodia and Vietnam, according to Takeo province Governor Kep Chuktema.
The border between Vietnam’s An Giang province and Cambodia’s Kiri Vong district in Takeo is normally used for small-scale trade between local farmers. The road on the Cambodia side leading to the Phnom Den border checkpoint is “critically poor,” Kep Chuktema said.
Vietnam wants to improve the roads on its side of the border and build a commercial area where foreigners can shop in duty-free stores, Kep Chuktema said. The governor said he would tell Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng of the proposal.
“The Vietnamese are just waiting for Cambodian approval to join them in developing trade. They have projects that they want to begin,” Kep Chuktema said.
The governor heard the proposal during a recent working trip to An Giang to meet top officials. He said he supports the idea and wants to use the Cham Yeam international border crossing between Koh Kong province and Thailand as a model.
Commercial development and gambling casinos have boosted the local economy in Koh Kong, Kep Chuktema said. One casino was built in recent years in Svay Rieng province near the Bavet border checkpoint between Cambodia and Vietnam. There are also casinos near Poipet along the border with Thailand where foreigners can cross into Cambodia for a few hours to gamble.
But the governor said the Phnom Den border crossing would not have casinos, since the government bans casinos within 200 km of Phnom Penh.
With good roads, Kep Chuktema said, the Phnom Den border crossing would be more convenient than the Bavet crossing for tourists and businessmen. It is closer to Phnom Penh and travelers do not have to take a ferry, as they do at Neak Loung town on the road to Bavet.
Cambodian villagers in the Phnom Den area complain Vietnam has moved the border more than one km inside Cambodia. The villagers said Vietnamese authorities do not allow Cambodian farmers to use their own rice fields or water from a canal that villagers claim is inside Cambodia.
Opposition party leader Sam Rainsy was detained for two hours by Vietnamese policemen in November 2000 for illegally entering Vietnam at the Phnom Den border crossing. Sam Rainsy and about 20 members of his traveling party had taken photos and videotaped disputed areas in use by Vietnamese farmers.
But Kep Chuktema said the border demarcation dispute should not block development of the border crossing. The government should place economic considerations first, he said.