Trade between Koh Kong and Thailand’s Trat province has remained robust despite February’s border dispute, even as tourism statistics dropped, local businesspeople claim.
“Thai merchants told me that Cambodia was nearly their sole market. If they do not do business with Cambodians, there will be no-one to do business with,” said Chreb Thy, a 52-year old Koh Kong resident, who earns his income shipping goods between the countries by boat.
Koh Kong Deputy Governor Sun Dara said Thai imports to Koh Kong generally outpaced the Cambodian province’s exports.
Trat province exports fruit, vegetables, and consumer goods to Cambodia, while Koh Kong exports a much smaller volume of food – largely fish – in return, he said.
Official trade statistics between the two provinces were not available but Chreb Thy reckons Trat province exports about 80 percent more to Koh Kong than the other way around.
“I ship consumer goods, fruits, vegetables, and construction materials from Thailand to Koh Kong,” he said. “My boat returns empty.”
Yang Synath, a 34-year old fruit and vegetable vendor, said she had lost a large amount of income during the border clashes, but trade quickly picked up again following the end of hostilities.
“I had to throw out my vegetables daily when the Cambodian and Thai troops fought. But now, everything is back to normal,” she said last week.
Figures obtained from the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh earlier this year show Cambodia and Thailand’s bilateral trade reached US$2.557 billion in 2010, from $1.658 billion a year earlier – representing growth of 54 percent.
Cambodia’s exports to Thailand increased an annualised 176 percent to $215 million, compared with a 48 percent increase in Thai exports to $2.342 billion in 2010 over 2009.