Government blames economic crisis – not border dispute – for decline in bilateral trade between Cambodia and Thailand in the first seven months
Thailand again blocks Cambodian rice
THAI officials have banned imports of rice into Thailand through a local checkpoint in Banteay Meanchey province following a protest by Thai farmers. Soung Moeun, the chief of O’Beichon commune, in the province’s O’Chrov district where the checkpoint is located, said farmers across the border in Thailand’s Sa Keo province asked officials “a few weeks ago” to temporarily ban imports of Cambodian rice until they could sell their own harvest. “Thai officials told us they have carried out the ban according to their people’s request," he said. “Our Cambodian rice is not allowed to be exported to Thailand.” Soung Moeun called the ban unfair and said other goods, including cassava from Cambodia and products from
Thailand, were being traded as usual. At the O'Romduol checkpoint in Battambang province’s Phnom Proek district, between 10 and 20 trucks loaded with rice were still crossing into Thailand on a daily basis, said Song Sopheak, the district police chief. Banteay Meanchey province Governor Ung Oeun said he was not aware of the blockade but would investigate the issue before discussing it with Thai officials. Soung Moeun said officials on the two sides of the border met every three months at least, and often on a monthly basis, to exchange information and resolve disputes. “We have good communication with Thai officials”, he said. Officials at the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh did not respond to calls for comment Wednesday. THET SAMBATH
BILATERAL trade with neighbouring Thailand fell by almost a third in the first seven months of 2009 year on year, according to official figures supplied to the Post Wednesday by the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh.
Total trade in the first seven months between the two countries dropped 31.7 percent to US$913.58 million, the figures collated by Thai customs showed, from $1.34 billion during the same period last year.
"The crisis has lowered consumer incomes, which slows down purchasing power," said Jiranan Wongmongkol, director of the Thai Embassy's Foreign Trade Promotion Office, adding that the border dispute between Bangkok and Phnom Penh over Preah Vihear had had little impact.
She forecast that overall trade for this year between the two countries would fall about 30 percent from $2 billion in 2008.
Kingdom's exports fall
Cambodian exports to Thailand declined more sharply than the overall slide as the Kingdom maintained a large trade deficit with its more industrially developed neighbour.
Exports fell 38.5 percent to $32.41 million up to the end of July this year from $52.76 million during the same period last year in goods that primarily included agricultural produce, second-hand garments, fish and recycled metals.
Imports from Thailand were down 31.4 percent to $881.17 million from $1.29 billion last year.
Petroleum, consumer products, building materials and cosmetics made up the bulk of Cambodian imports from its neighbour.
Mao Thora, secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce, said Wednesday that bilateral trade with other countries in the region had also fallen significantly so far this year, another reason that the Preah Vihear dispute should not be cited as a reason for the slump with Thailand.
"The downturn has not only affected Cambodia's trade with Thailand, but also with Vietnam," he told the Post Wednesday, adding that trade with all other countries would be shown to be down once official figures become available.
This month figures released by the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh showed bilateral trade with Vietnam fell 21.87 percent to $743 million in the first seven months compared with $951 million for the same period in 2008.
Mao Thora agreed with the Thai Embassy that bilateral trade between the two countries would likely not rebound in 2009.
Tourism bright light
"Neither Thailand nor Cambodia's trade has recovered yet - for Cambodia, we have just seen a slight recovery in tourism," he said.
Although revenues for Cambodia's main tourism attraction Angkor Wat were down about 20 percent in the first seven months of 2009, the Apsara Authority - the body responsible for revenue collection at the temples - told the Post this week that foreign visitor arrivals to the Kingdom rebounded in July, according to official government figures.
Although tourism arrivals fell 1.1 percent in the first half of 2009 year on year, figures released at the end of August showed, a 10 percent annualised rebound in July meant that in the first seven months of this year the sector expanded an unexpected 0.3 percent.
Analysts agree that average spend per tourist in Cambodia has declined, however, since the onset of the global economic crisis.