Cambodia and Laos to boost trade, open more checkpoints

Cambodia and Laos to boost trade, open more checkpoints

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen (second right) speaks to Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith as their wives, Naly Sisoulith (left) and Bun Rany (right) look on upon the Lao leader's arrival at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh on Monday. (AFP photo)
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen (second right) speaks to Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith as their wives, Naly Sisoulith (left) and Bun Rany (right) look on upon the Lao leader's arrival at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh on Monday. (AFP photo)

Laos has asked Cambodia to increase trade and investment in its northern neighbour as bilateral trade between the two countries is small and has plenty of room to expand.

Laos’ newly-elected Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith met his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen in Phnom Penh on Monday and said Laos would like to see more cooperation with Cambodia in terms of trade, investment and tourism between the two countries, the Khmer Times quoted Ieng Sophalet, Hun Sen’s assistant, as saying.

The discussions about boosting the trade and investment sectors between the two countries was part of a series of discussions the two leaders had and comes two months after Thongloun took office.

The amount of two-way trade between the two countries was not made public in the meeting, but total investments in Laos by Cambodia is valued at about $84 million, Sophalet said.

The neighbours, which were under French colonial rule for decades, need foreign investment to drive their economies. They also need physical infrastructure and face electricity shortages, and these problems are some of the factors keeping foreign investors away.

So Phonnary, the executive vice-president of Acleda Bank, said her bank opened branches in Laos in 2008 and added that the investment environment in Laos had been positive, thanks to the country’s healthy economic growth.

“The Lao people need loans and financial services as their economic growth increases every year,” Phonnary said.

Acleda Bank now has 41 branches in Laos with outstanding loans of $90 million and deposits of $90 million, Phonnary said.

However, she added that some challenges remain when it comes to investing in Laos. Some of the laws and regulations related to investment need to be looked at and Laos is not like a free market country, she pointed out.

More border checkpoints will also be opened between Cambodia and Laos after both countries agreed to increase bilateral.

More information on the new checkpoints will be released soon, Sophalet told reporters, according to the Khmer Times.

He added that the new checkpoints are being created for the use of citizens from both countries to promote cross-border investment, trade and tourism.

While Sophalet would not say where the new checkpoints will be, a Cambodian Foreign Ministry statement released earlier this month said one will be built in Preah Vihear province.

The checkpoint’s construction is part of a larger plan to link the two countries with a road and bridge over the Ropov River, making it easy to cross between Preah Vihear and Laos’ Pakse province.

Now the only official overland route between the neighbors is through the Voeung Kam-Dom Kralor checkpoint in Stung Treng, opposite Laos’ Pakse.

The new border checkpoint will give residents the option of entering Laos and Cambodia respectively through legal means, Sophalet added.  

According to the Cambodian Foreign Ministry, Cambodia’s consul office in Stung Treng province will be open on Thursday, with the Lao side opening on Friday.

Mey Kalyan, a senior advisor to the Supreme National Economic Council, said the new consul offices will help communications between Cambodia and Laos.

“In the name of neighbouring countries, we have to help each other in terms of facilitating mutual trade activities,” Kalyan said.

The Cambodia-Laos border is about 54 kilometers long.

Not discussed during Monday’s meeting was Laos’ controversial Don Sahong dam, which is being built less than two kilometres upstream of the Cambodian border. Despite the government in Laos claiming the dam will have no effect on the Mekong River ecosystem or their downstream neighbours, international experts disagree.



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