Bangkok and Phnom Penh have opened a new chapter in their relationship by signing an agreement to become sister cities amid the simmering dispute over Preah Vihear temple.
Former Bangkok governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra shakes hands with Phnom Penh governor Kep Chuk Tema during a signing ceremony of the sister city agreement between the two capitals at Phnon Penh Capital Hall last week.
Then Bangkok governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra and Phnom Penh governor Kep Chuk Tema endorsed the sister city status of the Thai and Cambodian capitals at Phnom Penh Capital Hall on Jan 4 in an amicable atmosphere.
The signing ceremony was held less than a week before MR Sukhumbhand resigned from his post on Wednesday to run in the March gubernatorial election under the Democrat banner.
Bangkok and Phnom Penh had been preparing to become sister cities since last year, when MR Sukhumbhand met Governor Kep at Phnom Penh Capital Hall on May 18.
The agreement aims to strengthen cooperation between Bangkok and Phnom Penh and the residents of the two capitals as well as promote a better understanding between the two cities.
Becoming sister cities will enhance the exchange of views between officials and the people on various topics such as economic, social, culture, education, environment, occupational and technical issues. Also included will be sciences, economy, literature, education-related activities and human resource training, according to the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.
It will also ease investment ties in Bangkok and Phnom Penh in accordance with rules and laws, plus equality and mutual benefits of the two sides.
MR Sukhumbhand said the fact that Thailand and Cambodia shared a common border was especially significant for the sister city agreement.
He said sister cities cooperation would not be affected by Thai-Cambodian relations at national level which are fragile because of unsettled disputes.
Although Bangkok and Phnom Penh are different in terms of size and population, MR Sukhumbhand believes that there are "several development lessons learned by Bangkok that Phnom Penh could apply to develop its own system" of governance.
Phnom Penh is not only the capital of Cambodia, but it is the largest city as well. The city is located in the south-central region of Cambodia, at the confluence of the Tonle Sap, Mekong and Bassac rivers.
According to Phnom Penh municipality's website, the Cambodian capital covers an area of 678.46 square kilometres and has a population of 1,501,725.
Bangkok, meanwhile, covers 1,568.73 sq km with a population of more than 8.25 million.
MR Sukhumbhand said the two cities would cooperate in all areas of development, no matter which government was in power.
Governor Kep said he was glad to endorse the sister city status of the two capitals and hoped the agreement would help improve national ties.
Under the agreement, provisions will be developed to help business people of both countries so they can meet and exchange business experiences in Phnom Penh and Bangkok while learning to respect the laws of both countries based on the principle of equality and mutual benefit.
The signing of the agreement makes Phnom Penh the 25th city to team-up with Bangkok.
The first sister city agreement that Bangkok signed was with Washington DC.
The agreement was signed on Feb 19, 1962, followed by Beijing in 1993.
In 1997, then Bangkok governor Bhichit Rattakul signed sister city agreements with Budapest, Brisbane (Australia), Moscow, St Petersburg (Russia) and Manila. In 2004, during the tenure of then governor Samak Sundaravej, Bangkok became a sister city with four more cities - Hanoi, Jakarta, Vientiane, and Astana (Kazakhstan).
In 2005, then governor Apirak Kosayodhin signed sister city agreements with Teochiu (China) and later with Fukuoka (Japan) and Seoul in 2006.
During the tenure of MR Sukhumbhand, Bangkok has signed sister city agreements with up to 10 cities - Guangzhou (China) and Lausanne (Switzerland) in 2009; Busan (South Korea) and Chongqing (China) in 2011; and Tianjin (China), Ankara, Penang state (Malaysia), Aichi (Japan), Teheran and Shanghai in 2012.
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- Writer: Supoj Wancharoen