The number of new Thai investors coming to do business in Cambodia has increased
in 2006 compared with previous years, according to an official at the Thai Embassy
in Phnom Penh.
Boonnam Kulrakampusiri, minister counselor of the Office of Commercial Affairs at
the Royal Thai Embassy, said this year between 15 and 20 new Thai investors have
been visiting his office every month to discuss doing business in Cambodia; in previous
years only existing local Thai business people consulted him.
Boonnam said that now about 400 to 500 Thais are running businesses in Cambodia -
both small and big. They come to Cambodia to pursue all kinds of business - including
hotels, restaurants, and cement factories. He said that when he first arrived in
Cambodia in January 2004, roughly 200 Thais were doing business in the country.
Many Thai business people left Cambodia when a dozen Thai-owned hotels and businesses
were attacked and looted by protesters during an anti-Thai riot in January 2003.
Anti-Thai sentiment erupted in January 2003 amid rumors that the Cambodian embassy
in Bangkok had been attacked and allegations that Thai actress Suwanan Kongying had
claimed that Angkor Wat belonged to Thailand.
Protesters set fire to the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh and several businesses. The
Thai embassy sacking made news around the world and left Cambodia with an estimated
$45 million repair bill. Once-popular Thai movies disappeared from Cambodian public
television channels, and have not returned.
Boonnam said the Cambodian government already paid the repair bill.
"Besides the films, everything now goes as usual," he said. "Today
we have more Thai investments in Cambodia - now big companies are coming. Our government
tries to help neighboring countries to have the same level of growth. We are not
rich, but we have money to help neighboring countries, including Laos, Cambodia and
"Now, both our countries try to encourage [Thai investors] that the riot will
not happen again; our government facilitates investors by persuading them to invest
in Cambodia and the Cambodian government facilitates the investment environment."
He said security was important for potential investors: they would avoid countries
that lacked security and put their money in countries where it would be safe.
"I don't know for sure whether investors are still concerned [about security
in Cambodia] or not," he said. "But as we look at the figure of Thai investment
in Cambodia now, it is increasing compared with previous years."
Boonnam said that last year the total Thai investment in Cambodia was about $100
million, including unregistered businesses, and he estimated that this year there
would be more because big investors were coming.
In mid-July TCC Group, one of the biggest companies in Thailand, entered into a joint
venture with Mong Reththy to establish a $50 million sugar factory and byproducts
industry in Keo Phos village, Koh Kong.
Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, chairman of TCC Group, said as a foreigner he will hold
49 percent of the joint venture and Reththy, owner of Mong Reththy Group, will hold
"My wife and I are very happy to invest in Cambodia because the [Cambodian]
government has managed the country to have better stability," Charoen said during
a press conference on July 17 at Mong Reththy Group's headquarters after his meeting
with Prime Minister Hun Sen.
"And I am very happy to join with Oknha [Mong Reththy], who is a good person,"
Charoen said. "And as the speech of Samdech Prime Minister told me, when he
was staying in the pagoda, Oknha was the monk and Samdech was the pagoda boy.
"Samdech Prime Minister is one of the other good leaders. Samdech Prime Minister
requested me to invest to help farmers to get rid of technological difficulty. I
am very happy to invest in the agricultural field."
Reththy said Prime Minister Hun Sen had encouraged Charoen to enter into other joint
ventures with him and urged him to plant oil palms, enlarge his port, plant sugar
cane and build a sugar factory in Koh Kong. He had also pressed Charoen to develop
Reththy's 100,000-hectare land concession in Stung Treng as soon as possible.
Reththy said when the sugar factory is running in 2008, about 10,000 people will
"The sugar factory will be able to supply the local demand and also could export,
because Mr Charoen has a lot of money," Reththy said.
Cambodia imports more than $70 million of white sugar each year, Reththy said. In
2005 it imported about 250,000 tons of sugar from Thailand.
Boonnam said Cambodia had three major fields to invest in: agricultural products,
agro-industry like Charoen's sugar factory, and tourism. Charoen also owns a hotel
in Siem Reap.