Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Thai investors flock to riot-free Cambodia

Thai investors flock to riot-free Cambodia

Thai investors flock to riot-free Cambodia

The number of new Thai investors coming to do business in Cambodia has increased

in 2006 compared with previous years, according to an official at the Thai Embassy

in Phnom Penh.

Boonnam Kulrakampusiri, minister counselor of the Office of Commercial Affairs at

the Royal Thai Embassy, said this year between 15 and 20 new Thai investors have

been visiting his office every month to discuss doing business in Cambodia; in previous

years only existing local Thai business people consulted him.

Boonnam said that now about 400 to 500 Thais are running businesses in Cambodia -

both small and big. They come to Cambodia to pursue all kinds of business - including

hotels, restaurants, and cement factories. He said that when he first arrived in

Cambodia in January 2004, roughly 200 Thais were doing business in the country.

Many Thai business people left Cambodia when a dozen Thai-owned hotels and businesses

were attacked and looted by protesters during an anti-Thai riot in January 2003.

Anti-Thai sentiment erupted in January 2003 amid rumors that the Cambodian embassy

in Bangkok had been attacked and allegations that Thai actress Suwanan Kongying had

claimed that Angkor Wat belonged to Thailand.

Protesters set fire to the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh and several businesses. The

Thai embassy sacking made news around the world and left Cambodia with an estimated

$45 million repair bill. Once-popular Thai movies disappeared from Cambodian public

television channels, and have not returned.

Boonnam said the Cambodian government already paid the repair bill.

"Besides the films, everything now goes as usual," he said. "Today

we have more Thai investments in Cambodia - now big companies are coming. Our government

tries to help neighboring countries to have the same level of growth. We are not

rich, but we have money to help neighboring countries, including Laos, Cambodia and

Myanmar.

"Now, both our countries try to encourage [Thai investors] that the riot will

not happen again; our government facilitates investors by persuading them to invest

in Cambodia and the Cambodian government facilitates the investment environment."

He said security was important for potential investors: they would avoid countries

that lacked security and put their money in countries where it would be safe.

"I don't know for sure whether investors are still concerned [about security

in Cambodia] or not," he said. "But as we look at the figure of Thai investment

in Cambodia now, it is increasing compared with previous years."

Boonnam said that last year the total Thai investment in Cambodia was about $100

million, including unregistered businesses, and he estimated that this year there

would be more because big investors were coming.

In mid-July TCC Group, one of the biggest companies in Thailand, entered into a joint

venture with Mong Reththy to establish a $50 million sugar factory and byproducts

industry in Keo Phos village, Koh Kong.

Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, chairman of TCC Group, said as a foreigner he will hold

49 percent of the joint venture and Reththy, owner of Mong Reththy Group, will hold

51 percent.

"My wife and I are very happy to invest in Cambodia because the [Cambodian]

government has managed the country to have better stability," Charoen said during

a press conference on July 17 at Mong Reththy Group's headquarters after his meeting

with Prime Minister Hun Sen.

"And I am very happy to join with Oknha [Mong Reththy], who is a good person,"

Charoen said. "And as the speech of Samdech Prime Minister told me, when he

was staying in the pagoda, Oknha was the monk and Samdech was the pagoda boy.

"Samdech Prime Minister is one of the other good leaders. Samdech Prime Minister

requested me to invest to help farmers to get rid of technological difficulty. I

am very happy to invest in the agricultural field."

Reththy said Prime Minister Hun Sen had encouraged Charoen to enter into other joint

ventures with him and urged him to plant oil palms, enlarge his port, plant sugar

cane and build a sugar factory in Koh Kong. He had also pressed Charoen to develop

Reththy's 100,000-hectare land concession in Stung Treng as soon as possible.

Reththy said when the sugar factory is running in 2008, about 10,000 people will

get jobs.

"The sugar factory will be able to supply the local demand and also could export,

because Mr Charoen has a lot of money," Reththy said.

Cambodia imports more than $70 million of white sugar each year, Reththy said. In

2005 it imported about 250,000 tons of sugar from Thailand.

Boonnam said Cambodia had three major fields to invest in: agricultural products,

agro-industry like Charoen's sugar factory, and tourism. Charoen also owns a hotel

in Siem Reap.

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