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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Thais resume support for $41mn road project

Thais resume support for $41mn road project

THAILAND has reportedly pledged to resume US$41.2 million in funding for a road-construction project in Cambodia as the countries move to normalise diplomatic relations.

Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaungsuban said that the aid, originally promised last August to extend National Road 68 to the border with Thailand in Oddar Meanchey province, would be resumed as part of an overall effort to warm relations, the Bangkok Post reported.

The Kingdom and Thailand reinstalled their respective ambassadors last week and re-established full diplomatic ties after the resignation of fugitive former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as economics adviser to Cambodia.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said yesterday that although Cambodia had not requested the assistance, it appreciated the initiative announced on Friday. “Cambodia welcomes all forms of donations without conditions attached, and this is what the Thai side has promised,” Koy Kuong said.

Last November, Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered the cancellation of all Thai grants and loans as tension escalated following Thaksin’s
appointment.

“Anyone who dares to ask for assistance from Thailand without my permission should resign. We may be poor, but we would rather shed our blood than let you look down on us,” Hun Sen said, apparently addressing Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

The diplomatic spat between Thailand and Cambodia has had significant economic consequences. Data from the Council for the Development of Cambodia showed that approved investments from Thailand shrank from $178 million in the first half of 2009 to just $2 million in the first six months of this year.

During the same period, the value of Cambodia’s exports to Thailand dropped roughly 50 percent.

Today, officials in Oddar Meanchey are scheduled to attend an inauguration ceremony for a road project that terminates at Ta Moan Thom temple, a site claimed by both Thailand and Cambodia.

The road, funded by a charitable donation from CTN television, stretches roughly 9 kilometres in Oddar Meanchey’s Ampil district. CTN is one of the participants in a programme in which private companies provide funding to military units, according to a document signed by Hun Sen in February that outlined the initiative.

Neak Vong, deputy commander of Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Brigade 42 in Oddar Meanchey, said the road had made it much easier for the military to keep troops at the border properly supplied.

“When we were constructing the road, Thai soldiers always disturbed us and demanded that we halt construction, but we did not listen to their protests, and now everything is fine,” Neak Vong said.

Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn declined to comment on the road project.

“We look to improve our relations with Cambodia,” Panitan said. “We continue to work on [our] different opinions on the border issue.”

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