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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Thai rail shipments to capital plummet with border dispute

Thai rail shipments to capital plummet with border dispute

Imports have dropped more than 50 percent, despite planned efforts to expand trade by refurbishing the railway , officials say

Thai goods imported by rail from Banteay Meanchey province to Phnom Penh plummeted between 50 and 60 percent in July compared with June 2008 due to the military standoff at Preah Vihear, a government rail official said Wednesday.

"We saw the amount of goods from Thailand fall sharply," said Sokhom Pheakavanmony, director general of the Royal Railways of Cambodia. He added,  "As the dispute continues, the number of Thai goods will continue to decline."

The drop comes despite efforts to boost rail-bound border trade.

A 48km stretch of rail between Svay Sisophon town, Banteay Meanchey province, and the border town of Poipet is currently being renovated under a three-year, US$88 million programme supported by the Asian Development Bank.

The project is expected to be completed in 2010, and is intended to link Cambodia to the Asean Singapore-Kunming railway project running through Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Kunming, China.

"Now renovations are going on close to Svay Sisophon," said Sokhom Pheakavanmony. "The Asean railway will boost growth for 500 million citizens in [the region]."

He said the border conflict between Cambodia and Thailand would not affect the Asean railway project.

Sok Sareth, deputy governor of Banteay Meanchey province, added that his officials have discouraged those in the province  to join in a boycott of Thai goods that was proposed after the Preah Vihear crisis erupted last month.

"I think the boycott was just the idea of some young teenagers. Most people never participated," he said.

Overall, trade between Thailand and Cambodia has increased this year, and Thai officials say that lingering tensions over the border will not impact trade.

But commerce has dipped slightly since the dispute began. Hundreds of Cambodian and Thai soldiers remain deployed at the temple as their governments remain deadlocked over the issue.

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