The National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) is working with Thai authorities to promote the use of KHQR more broadly between the two countries, a move that would encourage cross-border cashless payment.

KHQR is a universal quick response (QR) code system created for retail payments in the Kingdom and cross-border payments within the ASEAN bloc, according to the central bank.

NBC assistant governor and director-general Chea Serey told The Post on July 17 that both central banks launched the cross-border QR payment in February 2020. However, as an unintended consequence of Covid-19 border restrictions, the volume of KHQR code-based transactions has remained limited, she said.

Presently, transactions can only be done between ACLEDA Bank Plc and Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) clients, she added.

“It is not universal yet. But, currently we are in discussion to allow all KHQR users to use their mobile app to pay with SCB merchants as well.

“In Thailand, not all merchants can accept KHQR. Only SCB merchants can. We hope that with Thailand QR standardisation adoption, we will be able to allow our KHQR users to pay at all Thai-QR merchants regardless of their issuing banks,” Serey said.

In addition, transactions are outbound only, meaning that Cambodians can pay in Thailand but Thai tourists cannot pay in Cambodia as of yet, she said, adding that the inbound service is currently in progress.

“Most importantly, we want to encourage the use of KHR. So, only if the users have a KHR account can they use this cross-border method of payment.

“Therefore, I encourage everyone to open a KHR account if they want to benefit from this experience.

“Non-KHR users may complain and find it inconvenient but it is exactly the intention to provide more incentive and convenience to KHR users,” she added.

ACLEDA senior executive vice-president and group chief operations officer So Phonnary said she has noticed the increase in digital transactions at the bank.

“ACLEDA’s digital banking drives these operations growth. The service has enabled the bank to reach its customers globally through digital channels,” Phonnary said.

“ACLEDA digital channels contribute to the digital economy while ensuring financial inclusion in Cambodia,” she said, adding that as of May 31, there were around 2.4 million users registered to ACLEDA Mobile service.

“Beyond the Mobile App and digital products, ACLEDA plans to expand the self-service banking [SSB] and keep remodelling our existing physical branch offices to be fully digital offices,” she added.

In February 2019, the NBC signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Bank of Thailand to cooperate on financial innovation and payment systems.

The objective was to expand cooperation in financial technology and payment services, as well as promote efficiency, safety of cross-border payment transactions and national currency use.

In June that year, NBC selected three banks – ACLEDA Bank, Foreign Trade Bank of Cambodia and Cambodian Commercial Bank Ltd – to implement the Cambodian-Thai QR code-based payment system.

On July 3, 2022, the NBC officially launched the KHQR system, following a pilot run, to facilitate cross-bank payments.

According to the central bank’s 2021 Financial Stability Review, electronic payment transactions amounting 415.5 trillion riel ($102 billion) were recorded nationwide last year.

This marked an increase of 34.5 per cent year-on-year, as the number of e-wallet accounts reached 13.6 million, representing more than 80 per cent of the total population.