Political tensions between Cambodia and Thailand did not challenge economic concerns last year, officials said today, as the value of bilateral trade between the two countries grew more than 50 percent in 2010.
Figures from the Thai Embassy’s foreign trade promotion office, released today in Phnom Penh, showed the value of trade rose to US$2.557 billion in 2010, up from $1.658 billion a year earlier – growth of about 54 percent.
Cambodia’s exports to Thailand rose 176 percent year-on-year to $215 million, while Thailand’s exports increased by about 48 percent to $2.342 billion in 2010.
Tensions between the two countries rose in July 2008 after UNESCO listed Preah Vihear temple as a Cambodian world heritage site.
In late 2009, the relationship soured further when both governments recalled their ambassadors after Cambodia appointed the former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra as an economic advisor.
Conditions improved once Thaksin resigned from his role in August 2010, when both ambassadors returned to their offices.
Controversy flared again in recent weeks after seven Thais were arrested in December in Banteay Meanchey’s O’Chrou district.
Officials said today the ongoing political situation had not directly impacted economic ties between the two kingdoms.
“Our policy is that political matters are in one hand, and economics are in one other [hand]. People are still doing business and exchanging [goods],” said Chan Nora, secretary of state at Cambodia’s Commerce Ministry.
“The policy does not comply only [to] our country but also other countries in the world.”
Deputy Director of the Thai Business Council of Cambodia, Kriegn Kria, said today that many of Thailand’s large companies were not concerned about the political issues.
“I think that nothing impacted the business made between the people of our two countries because we have had a very long history, which is why we have got so close to each other,” he said.
He cited that the increase in bilateral trade was in part due to the recovery of the global economy, which was pushing consumer demand.
Business representatives from Thai-based firms also emphasised today the importance of economic growth as a factor affecting trade rather than politics.
Bin Many Mialia, business division manager at Thai petroleum company PTT, said his business had improved in 2010.
“We’re doing well. We are the key importer of fuel oil used in electricity generation and Jet A/1 fuel for commercial use,” he said.
“The political issue did not impact us. If the economy is improving, my business is also good.”
And, despite recent developments which have seen two of the arrested Thais sentenced to jail terms, officials are still optimistic for growth in the year ahead.
Kriegn Kria said: “I think it should be good this year because the world economy is going better.”
“I do believe that we will keep increasing trade, even through the recent political standoff, because people will still exchange their products with each other,” added Chan Nora.
Thailand’s exports to Cambodia include petroleum, processed goods, building materials, fruit and vegetables.
Cambodia primarily ships agricultural products, second-hand garments, recyclable metal and fish in the opposite direction.
Jiranan Wongmongkol, director of FTPO, was not available for comment today.