Thai-Cambodian retreat seals trade and labour deals
Thailand and Cambodia on Saturday signed five bilateral agreements to wrap up the two-day official visit by Cambodian leader Hun Sen, although no deal was reached on energy development and cooperation between the countries.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his Cambodian counterpart came out smiling after the 2nd Thailand-Cambodia Joint Cabinet Retreat at Government House, which marked the 65th anniversary of diplomatic relations.
Agreements signed at the meeting included a joint statement of the issues discussed at the retreat; a deal on the employment of labourers from each country; development plans for the Thai-Cambodian business council; and memorandums of understanding on the Ban Nong Ian-Stung Bot border checkpoint and labour cooperation.
Gen Prayut said both countries are committed to fulfilling their promises to one another and overcoming obstacles to build sustainable cooperation. The cabinet will speed up the passage of any legislation needed to bring their plans for working together to fruition, he said, adding the countries will also focus on improving security, trade, transport and human resources development, while cracking down on human trafficking, illegal logging and drug smuggling.
“On energy cooperation, we both agree that any plan for cooperation must be carefully thought out. Let’s be clear that there has been no deal yet. Talks will be held to see what we can do in the future,” Gen Prayut said. The premier explained that 65 years of diplomatic ties have built solid cooperation based on mutual trust, respect and benefits. Both countries want this to continue and will open more border checkpoints and create more connectivity by road, rail and air, he said.
The planned construction of a bridge linking Ban Nong Ian in Sa Kaeo’s Aranyaprathet district with Cambodia’s Stung Bot is expected to be completed in one year, while the rail link between the two countries should be reconnected within six months. The State Railway of Thailand is working to renovate tracks from Aranyaprathet to the border.
Hun Sen, who was in Bangkok for his first official visit in 12 years, said both countries had come a long way in building relations and cooperation, but the partnership still has the potential to expand further.
He reiterated an agreement to triple bilateral trade in the next five years to US$15 billion, or 542 billion baht. Improved customs facilities, increased border checkpoints and enhanced transport networks will be introduced to help reach that target, he said.
The Cambodian prime minister added that he would write a commemorative song to mark the Thai-Cambodia friendship bridge linking Ban Nong Ian and Stung Bot. The premier is known to be a fan of singing and karaoke.
He also expressed his gratitude to Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn for her role in helping develop human resources in Cambodia, and thanked Thailand more generally for its support and assistance.
According to Hun Sen, Gen Prayut has agreed in principle to visit Cambodia for the 3rd Thai-Cambodian Joint Cabinet Retreat to be held in Phnom Penh next year.
Tourism and Sports Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul said yesterday that Buri Ram United FC is likely to represent Thailand in a planned friendly football match with Cambodia, expected to be held on Jan 23.
Proposals for the friendly game were agreed upon at the Friday meeting, as part of plans to celebrate the 65th anniversary of diplomatic ties.