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Private sector debates Vietnam border deal

Private sector debates Vietnam border deal

090626_13.jpg
090626_13.jpg

Members call for equal cross-border access among vehicles, saying that a level playing field would create revenue and jobs

Photo by: SOVANN PHILONG

Vietnamese vehicles crossing the border (above) are allowed to continue to Siem Reap.

If our jobs are taken by others, how can poverty be

reduced?

THE Municipality Tourist Land Transportation Association has made a request to the government that Vietnamese tour buses be obligated to stop in Phnom Penh after crossing the border to allow local transportation companies to profit from ferrying tourists to other destinations in the country, particularly to Siem Reap.

In a closed public-private sector dialogue meeting Wednesday designed to set the private sector's agenda, Chheng Heak, president of the Municipality Tourist Land Transportation Association, argued that allowing Vietnamese tour buses to continue all the way to Siem Reap - as is currently permitted - meant his association was losing a chance to raise revenue.

"We would like the government to solve this problem to create more job opportunities for Khmer people," he said.

According to a bilateral agreement between the two neighbours, Cambodian vehicles can only travel as far as Ho Chi Minh City, whereas Vietnamese vehicles coming the other way are permitted to travel as far as Siem Reap, Cambodia's main tourist destination.

Chheng Heak pointed out that transportation companies have to spend at least US$1,000 per year on government taxes, and that therefore companies should be given further opportunities to cover such costs.

So Nguon, president of So Nguon Dry Port, said that Cambodia's bus capacity would not be able to meet demand.

"Such a measure would, I think, discourage tourists to come to Cambodia," he added.

His transportation working group and the Ministry of Transportation and Public Works had recently signed an agreement with a Vietnamese company operating in Battambang province permitting Vietnamese vehicles to travel to Siem Reap directly, he said.

Vietnam had requested to double the current quota of buses permitted to travel daily across the border to 300, So Nguon said. The quota was requested by the Cambodian side, which said that it has used fewer than its allotment thus far.

Ho Vandy, head of the tourism working group for the private sector and permanent head of the committee of the Cambodian Association for Travel Agents, said tourist transportation boundaries should be clearly demarcated.

"I agree with the transportation association because it is a potential source of income for us all," he said. "If our jobs are taken by others, how can poverty be reduced?"

So Mara, secretary of state at the Ministry of Tourism, told the Post by telephone that the transportation industry should concentrate on lifting the quality of its services first as part of a free, competitive market.

"I think it is equal [the agreement with Vietnam], but obviously, we lose because Vietnam has more tourists, and Cambodian tourists also like travelling on Vietnamese buses because they are new, good quality and cheaper." 

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