THAI Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said after holding talks with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in Phnom Penh today (Sept. 7) that the two countries will jointly link a rail route from Thailand to the Cambodian capital as soon as possible, INN News said.
This would be an historic rail route as it would link Thailand to other Mekong sub-region countries and agreements will be signed to take the best possible care of the rail operators of both countries, General Prayut added.
According to an article published by Thediplomat.com Cambodia and Thailand have long sought to complete a railway line connecting them which would boost tourism and business.
For Cambodia, the link would be part of a broader rehabilitation of its rail system, much of which was destroyed during civil war beginning in the 1970s. And for Thailand, it would serve as another project within the current governments ambitious infrastructure plans.
Mr Hun Sen said the two countries had agreed to open four permanent border checkpoints to make it easier for people to travel between the two countries.
He added that talks were also held on drug and human trafficking and that he would like Cambodians to work in a legally correct manner in Thailand and not be duped into working illegally.
Mr Hun Sen also said where trade is concerned Thailand had agreed to buy more Cambodian agricultural products while Cambodia will be increasing the purchase of Thai products five times.
General Prayut said Thailand is willing to help develop the quality of Cambodian agricultural products which could be jointed traded and exported to other countries with the target being to reach 15 billion dollars by 2020.
Top: Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen at a press conference in Phnom Penh today. Photo: INN News
Thailand and Cambodia agreed on Thursday to open four more border checkpoints and vowed to achieve their bilateral trade target.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Cambodian Premier Hun Sen hoped to see the quick opening of a checkpoint between Ban Nong Ian in Sa Kaeo's Aranyaprathet district and Stung Bot in Cambodia's Banteay Meanchey province to relieve traffic congestion at the crossing between Aranyaprathet and Poipet.
The Aranyaprathet checkpoint is the gateway of trade between the two countries.
The other three checkpoints to be opened have not been named.
Opening more crossings and transport links is part of their strategy to increase trade and contacts between Thailand and Cambodia.
The two countries want to restore by 2020 the Aranyaprathet-Phnom Penh rail link severed due to internal conflicts in Cambodia, according to the Thai government website.
The railway line faces a delay in Cambodia and a plan to put it on the agenda at the meeting of the two prime ministers was shelved.
"The linkages are key to development and prosperity of the two countries," the Thai government statement said.
Deputy government spokesman Weerachon Sukondhapatipak said Thailand and Cambodia promised to achieve the bilateral trade target of US$15 billion by 2020.
The goal is a big jump for the two countries, given the Thai Commerce Ministry data of $6 billion for 2015.
Thailand and Cambodia has agreed at the 3rd Joint Cabinet Retreat in Phnom Penh today (Sept 7) to go ahead with the opening of four more border crossings as Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha promised to take a good care of all legal Cambodian migrant workers.
Gen Prayut and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday (Sept 7) co-chaired the 3rd Joint Cabinet Retreat (JCR) in Phnom Penh to exchange opinions on various issues and promote partnership for peace and prosperity, according to a Government House release.
The two sides agreed that the Thai-Cambodian relations and constructive cooperation have increased on every level. Thailand has placed importance on border development, especially to connect the two countries both by land and sea, with an aim to enhance economic growth along the border through cross-border trade and tourism.
The two sides discussed preparations to open four more border crossings, particularly a permanent border checkpoint at Nong Ian Stung Bot where a bridge across the border, buildings and other facilities are required to be completed as soon as possible.
Gen Prayut thanked Hun Sen for composing four songs as a gift for the Thai governments assistance to build the Nong Ian Stung Bot bridge.
The two countries agreed to expedite the construction of the rail route from Aranyaprathet to Poipet, Si Sophone and Phnom Penh so that it can be completed by 2019. Once completed, the railway will serve as a tourist route between the two countries and in the sub-region. It will be the first rail route connecting Thailand and other countries in the Mekong sub-region.
Regarding the joint target of increasing the bilateral trade volume to 15,000 million dollars by 2020, concerned agencies have been assigned to find measures to promote cross-border trade, including at the Nong Ian Stung Bot which will soon be opened.
Gen Prayut told the Cambodian side Thailand will take a good care of all legal Cambodian migrant workers, to make sure that they get due protection and benefits according to the Thai law. Emphasis will be given to government-to-government import of labour forces.
The Thai prime minister was full of praise for the signing of an agreement between the two countries to do away with double-taxation to enable more investments to flow to Cambodia.
The two prime ministers were satisfied with continued cooperation in the field of security and suppression of drugs and human-trafficking as well as steps taken to solve the problem over the poaching of protected phayung (Siamese Rosewood) trees.
Gen Prayut and his entourage are scheduled to return to Thailand Thursday afternoon.
A train cruises through the Cambodian countryside, part of the railway line that connects Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville in the coast. KT/Chor Sokunthea
The railway line connecting Phnom Penh to Poipet in Bantey Meanchey province and further on to neighbouring Thailand will be fully operational in 2018, with officials on both sides of the border saying it will be pivotal in bolstering trade between Cambodia and Thailand.
The new line from Phnom Penh to Poipet city is expected to be completed next year, well ahead of our previous deadline, which was 2020, said Sun Chanthol, the Minister of Transportation.
Now we are speeding up work on this line to have it ready by 2018, so we can have a railway connection to Thailand.
The line, generally referred to as the western rail line, has 130 kilometres that still need to be built or repaired, with the ministry seeking $20 million in funding from the national budget through the Ministry of Economy and Finance, according to Ly Borin, an under-secretary of state at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport.
Mr Borin also said that if their request for funds is approved, the project will be awarded to a private company through a bidding process.
The section of the line in disrepair, damaged during wartime, extends from Pursat province to the capital, Mr Borin noted, adding that other sections of the western rail line have been fully repaired and are ready to carry trains.
The western rail line is one of only two railway lines that exist in the kingdom. The other one, connecting Phnom Penh to Preah Sihanouk province in the coast, is already in service.
The Phnom Penh-Poipet rail line is expected to play a key role in facilitating trade and the movement of people between Cambodia and Thailand, with leaders from both countries having publicly committed to tripling bilateral trade to $15 billion by the year 2020.
Mr Borin could not provide a tentative date for an official launching ceremony for the new line, but said it will probably take place early next year.
He added that officials on both sides of the border are already working on setting up the protocols and systems for the crossing of people and goods at the border.
Cambodias transport-minister claims a rail connection to Thailand will definitely be inaugurated before the end of 2018. Sun Chanthol said the government would be expediting contracts for the repair and relaying of rail tracks between Phnom Penh and Poipet.
A secretary with the ministry, Ly Borin, said most of the tracks from Pursat up to Poipet had been renovated. He carried on with the explanation that 130kms of the line still needed refurbishing and this was mostly between Pursat and Phnom Penh.
This latter stretch of tracks was damaged during the civil war and Khmer Rouge era of the 1970s. Ly Borin said an estimated budget of US$20 million would be needed to finish the project. Once the funds have been approved, the repairs contracts will be put out to tender.
12GO ASIA explains that the last time trains from Phnom Penh to Poipet, Aranyaprathet and Thailand ran was after WWII. Services beyond Battambang were suspended by the ruling French government in 1946. Phnom Penh to Battambang trains were withdrawn in 2009 as the tracks were in such a bad state of repair.
Royal Railways started running trains between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville in 2016. The plan is to launch passenger services to Thailand once the line to Poipet is restored.
Malaysia plans to expand its connectivity with the kingdom, particularly air travel, a high-ranking Malaysian official said on the weekend.
In an interview with Khmer Times on Saturday, Malaysias Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Aziz Kaprawi said he hopes to see more Cambodian airlines flying to Malaysia, as it would increase the number of travellers visiting the Southeast Asian economic powerhouse.
More flights means more passengers and better connectivity. It will strengthen the relationship between Malaysia and Cambodia as Kuala Lumpur is viewed as an icon in Asean, Mr Kaprawi said.
The fact that by the end of January there would be four airlines operating between Phnom Penh and Kuala Lumpur is a very positive indication of the growth of travellers between the two destinations as well as the Asean region as a whole.
Malaysia is a tourist destination and so is Cambodia, with its many heritage sites and cultural venues which attract millions each year. Thus, additional flights by other airlines can only benefit both countries in promoting tourism and trade.
Mr Kaprawi said the new Bassaka Air flight connecting Phnom Penh and Kuala Lumpur, which launches on January 31, was a significant step in boosting connectivity between both nations and suggested the air carrier explores the possibility of flying to other locations in Malaysia, for example, Penang.
If a fifth freedom flight agreement could be worked with reciprocal rights for Malaysian airlines, the travel sector between Malaysia and Phnom Penh will be more attractive and even more convenient for travellers, not just tourists but also businessmen.
For Bassaka Air, I am confident that they will do well as I am sure they have done their studies and will probably cater to a niche market in addition to other travellers, he said.
With four companies now covering the Phnom Penh-Kuala Lumpur route, airlines, especially those based in Cambodia like Bassaka, should look into tour packages and other incentives to attract more travellers, he said.
Malaysias Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Aziz Kaprawi during an interview with Khmer Times. Supplied
Bassaka Air, he added, should also consider entering codeshare agreements and other forms of cooperation with regional airlines as well as acting as a feeder airline for destinations within the kingdom that are not served by large carriers.
Regarding sea freight, the Malaysian deputy minister said he was studying the possibility of upgrading the eastern Malaysian seaport of Kuantan with direct shipping routes to Sihanoukville, arguing that this would be the shortest route between both nations.
Mr Kaprawi also said railroads may in the near future help bring Malaysia and Cambodia together. He said Malaysias railway network continues to expand, with Thailand taking advantage of Malaysias railroads to send cargo to Port Klang.
Large sea-going vessels do not go to Bangkok Port because of technical issues, such as water depth and existing facilities, he said. Malaysian ports, on the other hand, can accommodate giant vessels which can then transship to feeder vessels to serve ports where large vessels cannot dock, either because of a lack of facilities, narrow channels or insufficient water depth.
In the future, with further expansion of Chinas One Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), rail connectivity between Cambodia and Malaysia will be a possibility. The railway section in Thailand could be easily linked to the existing railroad systems in Malaysia, Cambodia and possibly even Laos, Mr Kaprawi added.
He said Malaysia was trying to find synergies in all forms of transportation with land-linked countries, hoping to capitalise on the different projects in the region that China has initiated as part of the BRI.
I can see possibilities for a collaboration between the port of Sihanoukville and Port Klang. It will help facilitate economic activity and freight movement between the two countries.
Many Chinese ports collaborate with Malaysian ports as vessels from China have to use the Straits of Malacca, he said. Cambodia can act as a back-up, being a feeder port for these giant vessels headed to bigger ports.
He added that just as air connectivity between Cambodia and Malaysia has improved tremendously in the past few years, linkages between both nations based on other modes of transport will surely improve in the near future.
PRIME MINISTER General Prayut Chan-o-cha is expected to push for sustainable water use among countries along the lower part of the Mekong River when he attends the 2nd Lancang Mekong Cooperation (LMC) summit in Phnom Penh today.
Prayut said yesterday that countries in the lower part of the Mekong Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam are troubled by dams being built in the upper part of Southeast Asias longest river.
However it remains unclear how the issue will be addressed at the summit, which is mostly aimed at advancing the newest sub-regional scheme to become a modern cooperation framework.
At the summit today, Prayut will sit with five other leaders from the Mekong basin to endorse the Five-Year Plan of Action (2018 2022) and the Phnom Penh Declaration.
Established in 2015, the LMC comprises China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, and aims to forge political and security cooperation, economic and sustainable development, and social, culture and people-to-people exchange.
The LMC is regarded as a forum to promote Chinas influence and synergise with its Belt and Road Initiative. However, the Thai delegation wants the scheme to become an economic hub and sustainable development model through innovation and modern industries consistent with the Thailand 4.0 initiative and Eastern Economic Corridor development policies.
Thailands push is probably compatible with the LMC economic plan of action, as the six countries promote connectivity, including infrastructure upgrades such as railways. China is now working with countries in the region, including Cambodia, Laos and Thailand, to realise the dream of a trans-Asean railway.
Prayut is expected to pursue talks on the upcoming Thailand-Cambodia railway line, a part of Singapore-Kunming rail link and ultimately the Eastern Economic Corridor.
The premier said that the project has drawn to near completion despite suffering from several delays earlier.
Border control and trade and investment with emphasis on agricultural goods should also be discussed with Cambodia, Prayut added.
In the plan, they would promote the increase of application of global satellite navigation systems, including the Chinese Beidou system, in the Mekong countries.
In the area of economic cooperation, the six countries have plans to improve production capacity, promote cross-border trade, and build a long term, stable, sustainable and diversified financing system. The five-year action plan in the economic field also covers water resource management, agriculture, poverty reduction, forestry and environmental protection.
In the political and security field, the six countries which have different political regimes, ranging from communist to military rule and semi-democracy would promote dialogue and exchanges among political parties, according to the draft of the plan seen by The Nation.
Their cooperation in the security field mostly focused on non-traditional security threats such as combating drug and human trafficking, smuggling, terrorism, and trans-boundary and cybercrimes.
The action plan would also enhance cooperation in the field of disaster prevention and mitigation as well as humanitarian assistance.
On the social and culture front, the action plan would explore the establishment of the Lancang-Mekong Tourism Cities Cooperation Alliance to promote tourism and people exchange in the region.
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