The National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) has announced that it is embarking on an expansion of the Cambodian riel’s use, connecting payments to businesses in Laos and Vietnam via its Bakong online banking system.

This initiative follows the central bank’s linking of payment systems with Thailand, an achievement that spurred the decision to extend the riel payment reach to other ASEAN countries.

Speaking in Kampong Thom province at a celebration of the 43rd anniversary of the riel’s reintroduction, NBC deputy governor Chea Serey highlighted the significance of the riel for bolstering economic resilience, promoting growth and ensuring macroeconomic stability, especially during crises.

“The National Bank of Cambodia will continue to connect the riel payment system with Laos and Vietnam following our successful venture with Thailand. The execution of this riel payment integration with these nations will be realised shortly,” Serey stated.

She elaborated that once the project goes live, Cambodians holding Bakong accounts will be able to pay for goods and services in Vietnam, Laos and Thailand provided they have a riel account. She further emphasised that residents of all four countries would also be able to transact in the Cambodian riel while in Cambodia.

Serey underscored plans for an expanded riel payment system throughout the ASEAN region, aiming to increase the currency’s value and widespread usage, as well as ease payments for Cambodian travellers in the region.

“The use of our national currency doesn’t only preserve national sovereignty but also yields several benefits for the Cambodian society and economy by reinforcing economic resilience, preserving macroeconomic stability and fostering growth, especially in economic management,” she affirmed.

The transition from dollar to riel, Serey explained, demands active participation from all stakeholders.

“Promoting widespread riel usage isn’t merely about surmounting the US dollar or rapidly withdrawing it from Cambodia, but it also necessitates Cambodians’ vigilance in their habitual usage of the riel,” she said.

In Channy, president and CEO of ACLEDA Bank, noted the “successful” implementation of QR-scanning between Thailand and Cambodia, highlighting its convenience for people from both nations.

“This Cross-Border Payment is not only significant in Thailand, but it will soon extend to Laos and Vietnam to facilitate payments for tourists, traders and business people,” he said.

The riel was initially introduced for use in 1955 by King Norodom Sihanouk to signify sovereignty and national independence. During the genocidal Democratic Kampuchea regime, the NBC was destroyed and the riel removed from circulation, leading to widespread distrust in the currency. It was not until 1980, post-liberation, that the government rebuilt the central bank and reintroduced the riel.