Cambodia's requests to increase capacity at the Stung Bot-Ban Nong Ian international border checkpoint with Thailand – around 9km southeast of the main Poipet gate – during its preliminary phase continue to be declined by the Thai side, according to a senior public works official.

Thailand insists that construction of the primary facilities on its side of the checkpoint in Sa Kaeo province – linking to Cambodia’s Poipet town in Banteay Meanchey province – must be 100 per cent completed before granting the green light, Ministry of Public Works and Transport spokesman Vasim Sorya told The Post on March 13.

Such requests have been made by all of the public works, foreign and commerce ministries as well as the Banteay Meanchey Provincial Administration, even though the primary construction work remains incomplete on either side, he said.

Sorya commented that the public works ministry and other institutions made a major push in June to convince the Thai side to budge from its stance, citing freight congestion and delay issues. But he acknowledged that no substantial progress was made.

Sa Kaeo provincial authorities, on the other hand, have signalled a more open attitude toward boosting capacity at the Stung Bot-Ban Nong Ian border gate, but stressed that the move would require authorisation from the National Security Council (NSC), according to Sorya.

“We have tried every means, but have not yet gotten the all-clear to further open up the checkpoint,” he said.

On March 10, Banteay Meanchey provincial governor Oum Reatrey and his Sa Kaeo counterpart Parinya Phothisat led yet another meeting to discuss the matter, which has yet to yield any tangible results.

Cambodia Logistics Association (CLA) president Sin Chanthy said that businesses are eager for a broader opening of the Stung Bot-Ban Nong Ian border gate, underscoring that the move would relieve much of the freight traffic at the Poipet checkpoint.

“Although the transportation of goods through Poipet isn’t really all that much of an issue at this time, the further preliminary opening of Stung Bot-Ban Nong Ian would improve and accelerate the movement of freight, saving time and shoring up trade growth between Cambodia and Thailand.”

Bilateral trade between the two countries has trended up over the years – albeit with a slant in Thailand’s favour – reaching nearly $8 billion last year, up by 10 per cent over 2020, as the Thai government revealed plans to increase total cross-border trade from five-to-seven per cent on a yearly basis, according to the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok.

For reference, the Thai commerce ministry reported that the trade volume between Cambodia and Thailand reached $7.236 billion in 2020, down 23.17 per cent from 2019. Cambodia exported $1.148 billion in goods to Thailand in 2020, down 49.49 per cent year-on-year, and imported $6.089 billion, down 14.80 per cent from 2019.

The public works ministry spokesman said construction of the primary facilities on the Cambodian side of the Stung Bot-Ban Nong Ian border checkpoint was about 30-40 per cent and expected to be completed by early 2023, whereas Thai authorities anticipate work on their side to be finished this year.

The checkpoint is in Phsar Kandal commune’s Stung Bot village on the Cambodian side, and in Tha Kham subdistrict’s Ban Nong Ian village of Sa Kaeo province’s Aranyaprathet district at the terminus of Highway 3366 on the Thai side (GPS Coordinates: 13.616N, 102.61E).