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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Thai border trade rebounds

Thai border trade rebounds

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After plummeting in the aftermath of last week's border skirmish, officials and businesses on the Thai frontier say casino goers and traders are returning  

Photo by: Tracey Shelton

A casino in Poipet, across from Thailand. Casino operators report that Thais are returning following last week’s border shootout.

500

daily Thai visits to Poipet

Most Thai nationals cross the Poipet border to gamble at the town's massive casinos. The number of visits temporarily plummeted with the border clashes at Preah Vihear.

THAI border trade  and casino visits are largely returning to normal after plummeting following last week's border skirmishes.

"Four or five hundred Thais have crossed the Poipet international checkpoint to go to the casino every day since since a couple of days after the dispute erupted," said Sao Bunrith, deputy chief of immigration police at Poipet, on Monday.

"Visits decreased immediately after the clash, and have [since] returned to normal," Sao Bunrith added.

Three Cambodian soldiers  died and an unknown number of Thai casualties were inflicted last Wednesday when rockets and small arms fire were exchanged between soldiers stationed on disputed land near Cambodia's ancient Preah Vihear temple.

The fighting was the worst eruption of violence in the three-month standoff over the border. Crisis talks between commanders have since resumed.

Before last week's clash, about 500 Thais crossed into Cambodia each day, while thousands of Cambodian day labourers crossed into Thailand, Sao Bunrith said.

Officials and businesses near the border also say trade and cross-border visits have almost returned to normal.

"We have no problem here. Cambodian and Thai authorities have cooperated. The clash at Preah Vihear is a dispute between soldiers," Sao Bunrith said.

"Cambodian and Thai goods are exchanged at the checkpoint, and Cambodian people have returned to sell at the market in Thailand," Sao Bunrith added.

"The businessmen are not like tourists. When they get worried, they stop business, but it is only for a short period of time," he said.

Business as usual

Kong Bunly, the director of business management in Banteay Meanchey province, said Sunday that businessmen are returning to the province.

"Now they have returned to make their business. It is not quiet like before," Kong Bunly said.

"We hope both governments will try to find a solution to make the situation normal and to make people confident," Kong Bunly added.

Kong Bunly said there are five casinos being operated in Banteay Meanchey province, bringing in millions of dollars to the area.

Overall, the gaming sector has become a major industry in Cambodia as strict anti-gambling laws in Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam attract  large numbers of visitors to the Kingdom.

Thai punters, especially, gamble huge sums of cash, but even the slightest ripple in relations can see house takes drop significantly.

But Phu Kok An, the owner of the Crown Casino at Poipet, said Sunday that even gambling visits from Malaysia and Singapore had decreased.

"Trade and tourism decreased a little bit because the Thai government is being very vocal [about the recent unrest] and no foreign tourists dared visit Thailand", Phu Kok An  said.

"Now more Thais and Cambodians from along the border are flocking into casinos to gamble," Phu Kok An said.

Elsewhere, the situation has appeared not to have completely recovered.

In Koh Kong province, Saing Sakhun, chief of Chom Yeam International Checkpoint, said that since the clash last week, the number of Thai tourists has dropped and has yet to recover.

Before there were around 100 Thais crossing into Koh Kong to visit and gamble, but that is down to about 30 per day, he told the Post.

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