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Border clashes blamed for Poipet downturn

Border clashes blamed for Poipet downturn

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Traders prepare to bring goods from Thailand into the Cambodia border town of Poipet.

Businesspeople say ongoing tensions at Preah Vihear temple have caused a sharp drop in commerce in the casino town

POIPET

Business owners in Poipet, on the border with Thailand, have complained that business is down sharply since soldiers from the two countries exchanged fire at Preah Vihear temple in April.

Sa Nasy, a household products vendor at the town's Ra Market, said the clashes meant Cambodian shoppers had left the area adjacent to the Thai border for their home provinces, fearing bloodshed.

He was earning $15 a day as a result, down from up to $100 a day before fighting broke out, he said. "Before we had this problem with Thailand the market was very crowded, but now it's very quiet. The remaining people don't want to go out to buy goods because they're afraid it will be hard to escape once fighting starts."

Tensions have fluctuated along the border since Preah Vihear temple was listed in July 2008 as a World Heritage site by UNESCO, the UN's cultural body. At least seven soldiers have died in three exchanges of fire.

Chao Veasna, a Poipet wholesaler who buys canned products from Thailand to supply to local retailers, said business had dropped by half after many clients left the area to sit out the tensions. "I reckon that if the Cambodia-Thailand clash on the border persists, business will continue to be severely affected," he said.

Another vendor, Chheang Lay, a businessman from Kompong Thom, said he had sold clothes for several years at Thailand's Rong Kleu market near the border town of Aranyaprathet. "I can't do business like I could before because there are fewer people who are coming to buy," he said. "I do believe this is because they are afraid of fighting."

Despite the safety concerns at the border, Thai citizens were still coming to gamble at Poipet's casinos, local people told the Post. Some 400 Thais were seen gambling at the Grand Diamond City Casino last Thursday, they said, adding that the number was higher on weekends.

Sao Bunrith, the chief of the immigration police at the Poipet border gate, said the situation at his post was normal with between 800 and 1,000 people crossing daily for business and tourism. He said the transport of goods between the nations had dropped 10 percent, but attributed that to the global economic crisis rather than border tensions.

A report on Cambodia's provincial business environment released in April by the International Finance Corporation and The Asia Foundation ranked Banteay Meanchey province as the fourth-worst for business in the country. The ranking takes into account elements such as crime prevention, transparency and dispute resolution.

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