Military police guard the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh. Authorities hope to avoid a repeat of the 2003 riots that saw the embassy burned.
F IRE trucks and armed police may be stationed outside their embassy, but Thai officials and business are putting a brave face on economic ties, which they say will weather the Preah Vihear temple feud.
The more than two-week long dispute has brought fears of a repeat of the 2003 anti-Thai riots, during which the Thai embassy and Thai businesses were looted and torched.
As talks between Thai and Cambodian officials on the most recent spat run on with no clear resolution, rumours have circulated that Thais are fleeing Cambodia or have frozen their investments.
And while the Thai embassy has issued security warnings to citizens traveling to Cambodia, Poonsak Khunudom, the Economic Attache at the Thai embassy in Bangkok, said that he had heard of no Thai business pulling out.
“Our relations are good…We have to support each other,” said Poonsak Khunudom, the economic attache at the Thai embassy in Bangkok.
“A lot of Thai investors are interested in Cambodia,” he said.
The temple dispute has dredged up memories of the aftermath of the 2003 riots, which saw relations – and business ties – nose-dive.
But according to Yong Yut, a spokesman for Siam Cement Group in Cambodia (SCG), the Preah Vihear dispute has had no effect on the company’s operations. “This month our orders fell, but that was because of the elections – not the temple dispute,” he said.
SCG is Thailand’s largest conglomerate and is a major global construction materials producer.
The company was hard hit by the 2003 riots when its Phnom Penh offices were destroyed by rioters.
SCG currently has operations in Phnom Penh, Kampot and Siem Reap and reported about US$50 million in annual local sales, and production of about one million tonnes of concrete earmarked for the local market.
The company expects 15-20 percent local sales growth this year, according to Yong Yut.
Thailand continues to aggressively promote trade and investment in Cambodia and the region through a number of initiatives such as Thailand’s Import-Export bank and the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Strategy (ACMECS).
The programme targets Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, and saw 2.13 million baht in loans going to Thai businesses investing in Cambodia and regional trade growing to $10 billion last year.
Thailand is the third largest investor in Cambodia from the region and has about 100 SMEs in Cambodia, according to the Thai embassy.
Thai exports rose more than 70 percent this year – the highest rate in five-years, according to Thailand’s Commerce Ministry.