Cambodians have begun boycotting products from Thailand amid escalating anger throughout the country over the standoff involving Thai troops near Preah Vihear temple, retailers said.
“During the past week the number of customers who usually buy Thai products has fallen from five percent to ten percent,” said Nov Sochinda, 35, who sells cosmetics at the Central Market.
Customers were switching to Chinese or South Korean cosmetics, Nov Sochinda told the Post on July 23.
“I will stop selling Thai products if we have a war with Thailand,” she said. “I am Khmer and I won’t support enemy products.”
Chheng Sieng, 32, who sells cosmetics and groceries at O’Russei market, said she had suspended orders for Thai products because of a slump in demand.
“I’m selling the Thai products I have in stock; I haven’t put in any new orders,” Chheng Sieng said.
“The customers who previously bought Thai products asked me if there were alternatives of similar quality from Vietnam, China or South Korea,” she said. “These days, it is quiet at my shop.”
The boycott has also seen a sharp decline in sales of Thai fruit, which are otherwise popular with Cambodian consumers, said Pheoung Sokheng, 22, a vendor at Neak Meas market.
“I used to import about three tonnes of fruit a day from Thailand but now I’m ordering between 600 kilograms and one tonne a day because there are fewer buyers,” said Pheoung Sokheng.
“I’m very worried about the impact on my business if the dispute becomes prolonged,” she said.
Phou Phalla, deputy chief of Customs and Excise in Banteay Meanchey province, said imports from Thailand through the border at Poipet had declined about 30 percent since the dispute erupted.
Phalla said the figure was based on a comparison of imports from June 1 to 23 with the same period in July.
“Khmers who import goods from Thailand are cautious about their personal security and have reduced their business activities, while Thai traders are not allowing their Cambodian customers to buy on credit,” Phou Phalla told the Post on July 24.
He said goods imported through Poipet last month were valued at 30 billion Riels (about $7.3 million). The imports included vehicles, construction materials and consumer products.
Thun Virak, deputy director general of the Trade Department at the Commerce Ministry, told the Post it was unavoidable that the border dispute would result in some Cambodians boycotting Thai products.
He said Thailand was Cambodia’s second biggest source of imports, after Vietnam.
“Thai exports to Cambodia last year were worth nearly $1 billion,” Thun Virak said.
However, he doubted whether sales of Thai products would plummet because of the dispute.
“Only if the border is closed will Thai imports be halted, otherwise sales will continue because Khmer people think Thai products are of good quality,” Thun Virak said.
A student at Build Bright University, Thong Yort, said he had stopped buying Thai products since the dispute began.
“There are alternative products from Vietnam, China or Malaysia,” Thong Yort said. “Why do we need to buy the products of the invader?”