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New border facilities to enhance trade, tourism with Laos

Cambodia and Laos officially inaugurated a newly expanded border crossing yesterday that is expected to increase trade and tourism between the two countries, according to authorities.

The Trapeang Kriel-Nong Nokkhiane border gate, which connects Cambodia’s northern Stung Treng province to Laos’s southern Champasak province, is the sole official land crossing between the two countries, and an artery for bilateral trade and investment.

Prime Minister Hun Sen presided over the inauguration ceremony of new facilities at the border gate yesterday alongside his Laotian counterpart, Thongloun Sisoulith. He said the joint effort to expand and improve the crossing would benefit the economies of both nations.

“The bilateral development of the checkpoint’s infrastructure will lead to an increase in commercial activity at the border,” he said.

“It will also promote the flow of international tourists and the exchange of agricultural products while strengthening the overall relations of people living along the border.”

The prime minister called on border authorities to facilitate the application process of those needing documentation to cross the border. He also offered to grant landlocked Laos access to Cambodia’s ports along the Mekong as well as its deep-sea port in Sihanoukville.

Men Kung, spokesman for Stung Treng’s provincial government, said the border-gate improvements would serve to benefit not just the province but the whole of Cambodia and should also facilitate trade with other ASEAN countries.

“This will play an important role in promoting not only the economic potential of the province, but also in improving trade for all of Cambodia, Laos and other regional countries,” he said. “The new infrastructure will provide good facilities for trade, especially for agricultural products.”

Kung said he expected news of the improved checkpoint would encourage more people to cross the border and increase the flow of business people and passengers.

He added that it was still unclear whether any casinos would spring up near the border gate, as is the case at other border crossings, because the population in the region was relatively small and could limit the profitability of gaming operations.

Kong Sopheareak, director of the statistics and information department at the Ministry of Tourism, said tourism activity was expected to increase between Laos and Cambodia following the improvements made to the border.

Figures from the ministry show that Laos was the fifth-largest country in terms of international arrivals to Cambodia in 2016. Some 315,000 Laotians visited Cambodia during the first 11 months of 2016.

“Providing better access at the border will bring more opportunities to increase tourist arrivals and increase trade as the process to come into Cambodia will be easier and faster than before,” he said.

“This should lead to higher growth, especially in terms of exports and imports.”

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