By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
Thailand and Cambodia yesterday agreed to turn their conflict-plagued border into a boundary of peace, friendship and prosperity, vowing to build many projects to ensure economic growth and connectivity.
The joint Thai-Cambodian committee on border area development co-chaired by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul and his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong endorsed plans for development projects on the border.
This cooperation would be a model for Thailand in setting up border-development schemes with other neighbouring countries, Surapong said at a press briefing.
Such cooperation would bring peace and raise the living conditions of people along the border, Hor Namhong said.
The two countries will jointly set up two economic development zones, in Sa Kaew-Banteay Meancheay and Trat-Koh Kong. Thailand’s National Economic and Social Development Board will design the economic zones and bring them to fruition.
The committee agreed to develop and upgrade Cambodia’s routes Nos 5, 6 and 48 to ensure good connectivity with Thailand. The two sides also agreed to expedite the completion of missing stretches of railway – 6 kilometres of track from Aranyaprathet to Klong Luk and 48km from Poi Pet to Sisophon – that would complete the Bangkok-Phnom Penh rail link.
In the energy sector, the discussion mostly covered Thailand’s plan to sell more electricity to Cambodia’s border areas as well as a plan to set up a 1,800MW clean-coal power plant in Koh Kong.
Cambodia proposed the reactivation of the Emerald Triangle project to develop the border shared by Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. The project was initiated by Thailand more than a decade ago to develop the area’s tourist trade, but there has been no progress since then.
After the meeting, Surapong and Hor Namhong signed a second memorandum of understanding (MoU) to promote contract farming. Under the MoUs, the Thai government plays the role of facilitator, importing and exporting agricultural products under a contract-farming scheme aimed to guarantee food sufficiency in the countries of the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy.
In order to facilitate trade, transportation and tourism, the meeting yesterday agreed to create a new border checkpoint between Sa Kaew province’s Nong Ian and Banteay Meancheay’s Stung Bot to ease congestion at the Klong Luk-Poi Pet checkpoint.
Thailand would also build a new road to link with Cambodia’s Route No 5.
Three temporary checkpoints would be upgraded to permanent checkpoints: Chong An Mah (Ubon Ratchatani)-An Ses (Preah Vihear); Tha Sen (Trat)-Thmor Da (Pursat) and Khao Din (Sa Kaew)-Phom Dei (Battambang). Meanwhile, the Sai Taku (Buri Ram)-Chup Koki (Oddar Meancheay) border point would be opened temporarily.
More channels are needed to facilitate border trade, as Bangkok wants to boost two-way trade growth by 30 per cent per annum, Surapong said.
One serious issue on which the two sides have yet to reach agreement is the labour issue. Cambodia wants Thailand to recognise border passes as a travelling passport for Cambodian migrant workers, but Bangkok has so far refused to do so.