The Thailand-based Neighbouring Countries Economic Development Cooperation Agency (NEDA) is undertaking a technical study on six road projects connecting Cambodia’s provinces along the Thai border which will be upgraded to improve travel and goods transportation.

One study has been finalised and the construction plan submitted to the Ministry of Economy and Finance for approval before applying for a loan from Thailand.

Touch Chankosal, secretary of state at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, told The Post on November 24 that the ministry requested that NEDA study the six road projects that link Siem Reap and the three border provinces – Oddar Meanchey, Banteay Meanchey and Battambang – to Thailand to identify ways to improve economic growth between the two countries.

He met with NEDA first vice-president Colonel Saranyu Viriyavejakul and the working group on November 22 to discuss the progress of the work before applying for a loan from the Thai government.

“We have already studied Road 67 and submitted it to the finance ministry. NEDA will continue the technical study of Road 68 and other roads. We have to wait and see the final results of the study and there will need to be approval from higher-level institutions,” he said.

Chankosal said the six roads were in poor condition, which prompted the public works ministry to improve some of them with upgrades to asphalt concrete (AC) roads for ease of travel.

“We don’t yet have a clear report on the project cost because NEDA needs to complete the study first. NEDA has only just finished researching Road 67,” he said.

Institute for Road Safety director Kong Ratanak said the study for the six roads project was a good idea. He said if the roads are to be upgraded into AC types that meet the required standards, it will require a lot of money and more in-depth study before the economic benefits can be gained.

“I believe that the construction of the roads will have many economic and transportation benefits. But I want to note that if the roads are built, will the scale of agricultural products of the Cambodian people along the border increase?” He said, adding that “If we look at it from one angle, it is good for the economy – there are imports and exports, and if our roads are good, it also facilitates the transportation of goods.”

Ratanak said he wanted the construction of the six roads to focus on quality to avoid early damage to them. The existing roads were easily damaged due to overloaded vehicles.

“If the roads are developed and we have a commodities exchange at similar volumes with our neighbouring country, that is a good investment. But if we have less production and we spend more on the roads, that creates an economic imbalance and the excess imports will affect farmers’ productivity,” he said.