Cambodia and Thailand will begin discussions next month to increase the number of buses and trucks crossing the border – currently 40 crossings a day – in a bid to spur tourism and increase the transport of goods, according to an official at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport.
The two countries will discuss a bilateral transport agreement in Bangkok on June 5 that will increase the number of border crossings to 500 a day in the next three years and open up more
border crossings to ease the flow of vehicles, announced Vasim Sorya, director general of administration at the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation.
“Cambodia and Thailand have been in discussions for a bilateral transport agreement for some time now. This time, Thailand has requested for a high-level meeting to discuss a bilateral transport agreement with Cambodia, hoping that an agreement could be reached this time,” he said.
Thailand has proposed increasing the quota of vehicles to 150 a day in the first year, to 300 in the second year and by another 200 in the third year, taking the quota up to 500 vehicles a day. According to Sorya, the Asian Development Bank will assist the two countries in reaching an agreement.
As per the current agreement, under the Greater Mekong Sub Region Transport Agreement, authorised vehicles have no limits on trips made between the two countries, but can only cross via the Aranyaprathet-Poipet and Khlong Yai-Koh Kong international checkpoints.
While welcoming the proposed increase in border crossings, Sok Chanmony, president of the Cambodia Bus Association, said the agreement will likely benefit Thailand more than Cambodia, given that the bilateral trade balance tilts in favour of Thailand currently.
“Cambodia will not use up the quota in the agreement as the country has fewer goods to transport to Thailand,” Chanmony explained.
“The agreement can benefit local [bus] operators only if Thailand is willing to allow more buses from Cambodia to travel freely in their country, like Thai buses do in Cambodia. Also, Thailand needs to be more open to Cambodian bus operators entering the Thai market,” he said, speaking on the impact for the tourism sector.
Srey Chanthy, an independent economic analyst, said Thailand was looking to replicate Vietnam’s expansion of a transport agreement with Cambodia, which resulted in an increase in the export of products, such as vegetables, sea foods, construction materials and oils, to Cambodia.
“Recently, Thailand’s export to other markets has had some difficulty after the takeover by the military. So Cambodia could be a market for its export now,” Chanthy said.
“Cambodia may continue to have a trade imbalance with Thailand, but that is not too bad as long as Cambodia can export to high-end markets to offset that, and also attract more tourists from and via Thailand, strengthening tourism-related sectors,” he added.