Cambodia-Thai business communities hope that bilateral trade and investment between the neighbours grow stronger, as Thailand’s newly-appointed Prime Minister visited Cambodia as his first country in ASEAN.

According to Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin made his first official trip to Cambodia on September 28.

“Both prime ministers will hold bilateral talks aimed at charting a course of action to further deepen and expand the extensive spectrum of mutually beneficial ties under bilateral and multilateral framework,” MFAIC said.

The government leaders would exchange views on regional and international issues of shared interest and concern while participating in a handover ceremony for the Transit and Reception Centre for Victims of Trafficking and Other Vulnerable Groups in Poipet, which is part of a joint initiative.

Thai Business Council in Cambodia (TBCC) president Jiranun Wongmonkol told The Post on September 27 that Srettha’s choice to visit Cambodia first reflects the long relationship built by former premiers Hun Sen and Thakshin Shinawatra.

She said the appointment of a new prime minister for Thailand is a “good thing”, but she hoped that he would not only improve Thai’s economy but also strengthen bilateral relationships with neighbouring countries, including Cambodia.

“I do hope that my new prime minister will work even more closely with Cambodia’s new prime minister with discussions and negotiations happening smoothly,” Jiranun said, noting that the dealings should be built upon the relationship cultivated by Hun Sen and Thakshin. The close relationship between the leaders would increase the confidence in Thai and Cambodian businessmen and investors to expand further in each other’s countries.

“I have observed that some Thai conglomerates have expressed appreciation of Prime Minister Hun Manet and pledged to expand investment in Cambodia, such as the building of Chang Beer factory and setting up food and beverage processing factories,” Jiranun said.

Separately, Sar Sarin, senior vice-president of Bangkok-based Cambodia Business Council (CBC) told The Post on September 27 that Thailand remains one of Cambodia’s leading trading partners behind mainland China, the US and Vietnam. He foresees that the new premiers, who already have a very close relationship, would enhance the confidence of Cambodian and Thai investors.

“We do believe that trade and investment between our countries can expand further, thanks to the good relationship between the leaders. This is very significant for investors,” he said.

According to Jiranun, Thai conglomerate Big C would build a Big C supermarket in Phnom Penh after completing the one in Poipet in Banteay Meanchey province.

“Once large Thai companies including CP Group and GTC Group expand their business in Cambodia, it would spark other businesses, particularly small and medium enterprises in Thailand to consider coming to Cambodia. I strongly believe that the new governments will ensure that bilateral trade hits $15 billion soon, which was a pledge made by the former prime ministers,” she said.

Data from the General Department of Customs and Excise showed that both kingdoms traded merchandise to the tune of $1.7 billion in the January-May period, however, it was a dip of 8.8 per cent year-on-year amid global economic turbulence.

Cambodia’s exports to Thailand reached $480.2 million, up 9.5 per cent year-on-year, while imports dropped 14.4 per cent to $1.2 billion, narrowing Cambodia’s trade deficit with Thailand by 24.9 per cent on an annual basis to $744.5 million.