Global economic crisis blamed for fall in trade with neighbouring Thailand, rather than ongoing border tension over disputed Preah Vihear temples
Workers unload a bag of Siam cement at the Thai company’s warehouse at the Phnom Penh train station in this file photo.
TRADE volume between Cambodia and Thailand dropped by more than a quarter in the first two months of this year, according to the latest statistics from the Thai customs department. A Thai official said that trade was likely to continue to fall, predicting a 30 percent decline for the year.
"In January and February of 2009, Cambodia-Thailand trade volume was worth US$239.8 million - if compared to the same period last year, it dropped 26.24 percent," the Thai customs report said.
Cambodian exports to Thailand amounted to US$7.6 million during January and February, primarily in agricultural products, secondhand garments, fish and recyclable metal, while Thailand's exports to Cambodia - which include petroleum, consumer products, building materials and cosmetics - totalled more than $232 million.
Jiranan Wongmongkol, the director of the Thai embassy's Foreign Trade Promotion Office in Phnom Penh, said Wednesday that the economic crisis has reduced consumer demand, and that the border dispute near the Preah Vihear temple complex had nothing to do with the decline in trade.
"The drop is not due to the border dispute, but the global financial crisis that cut consumer demand," she said. "The drop is mainly due to less demand in building materials, consumer products and petroleum," she said.
She forecasted that exports to Cambodia for the whole year would drop by up to "30 percent".
The drop is not due to the border dispute, but the global financial crisis.
Thailand's exports to Cambodia totalled around $2 billion last year, but Jiranan expects that number to fall to just $1.6 billion in 2009.
Mao Thora, secretary of state at the Cambodian Ministry of Commerce, said Wednesday that Cambodia had not yet tallied the trade figure between Cambodia and Thailand, but said they expected a sharp drop due to the construction slump.
"It is likely that there has been a fall in consumer demand for construction materials," he said.
Taing Bouy Leang, owner of BLT company, a CD and DVD importer, said that people were simply buying less in Cambodia. He said he was importing 40 percent fewer products from Thailand to match a 40 percent decline in sales.
"In the first quarter of last year, sales were 3,000 to 4,000 cases of compact discs per month - a case contains 1,000 discs," he said. "But for the first three months of this year, our sales are down 40 percent."
Bin Many Mialia, marketing manager at Thai oil company PTT, said Wednesday that PTT petroleum sales to Cambodia in the first quarter of 2009 were similar to the same period in 2008. "I don't think the amount of my petroleum [sold to Cambodia] has dropped even with a border conflict and political unrest in Thailand," he said.
Despite avoiding a decline in 2009, he predicts that sales over the year will fall slightly as Cambodia feels the full impact of the crisis.