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Nearly 12km2 of Tbong Khmum battle site set to be SEZ: PM

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Prime Minister Hun Sen while commemorating the 45th anniversary of his ‘resistance journey’ to Vietnam, in Tbong Khmum province on June 20. SPM

Nearly 12km2 of Tbong Khmum battle site set to be SEZ: PM

The government has allocated 11.76sq km of a former battle zone in eastern Tbong Khmum province near the Vietnamese border for a special economic zone (SEZ), in a bid to stimulate development in the area and trade with Vietnam, according to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The premier was speaking on the occasion of the 45th anniversary of June 20, 1977 – the day he fled to Vietnam through Memot district’s Tonloung commune along with four comrades, on a mission to liberate the Kingdom from the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime – at a commemoration ceremony for the achievements made at the military historical site of Techo Koh Thmor X-16 in Koh Thmor village of that commune. The event was also attended by Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh.

Hun Sen commented that a large portion of the site of heavy fighting between Khmer Rouge troops and Cambodian and Vietnamese volunteer fighters would become an SEZ that houses factories, hotels and goods exchange areas, and spurs economic cooperation and development along the border. “Where bullets were exchanges in the heat of battle, now goods will be exchanged.”

The zone will provide a convenient location for producers and traders to exchange goods to be moved into Vietnam, and serve as a processing hub for agricultural products brought in from northeast Cambodia, he said.

Although he conceded that the SEZ would initially not draw much interest from investors, the premier was confident that the industrial park’s allure would only grow with time. As a result, he called on the Ministry of Public Works and Transport to build and expand roads connecting to the area from 2023-2024 and ensure the supply of water, electricity and telephone services there.

Hun Sen confirmed that he had issued a decision pertaining to the allocation of the land for the SEZ, at the request of National Military Police commander General Sao Sokha and Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction Chea Sophara.

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) vice-president Lim Heng maintained that both governments always strive to create an environment that stimulates goods exchange at the border as well as bilateral trade.

“Vietnam is a major buyer of Cambodian agricultural products for processing and re-export, whereas most local investors would not be able to afford to stockpile and process them for export,” he told The Post on June 20, adding that this symbiotic mutual relationship would underpin growth in bilateral trade.

Bilateral trade between Cambodia and Vietnam totalled $2.78941 billion in the first five months of 2022, representing a 20.27 per cent increase from the $2.3193 billion recorded in the corresponding period last year, according to the General Department of Customs and Excise.

In January-May, Cambodian exports to Vietnam clocked in at $1.07901 billion, rising by 3.4 per cent year-on-year, and imports were to the tune of $1.7104 billion, a 34 per cent uptick. The Kingdom’s trade deficit for the period expanded by more than 170.85 per cent year-on-year to $631.388 million, from $233.110 million in 2021.

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