Red Shirt protests stem flow of Thai investors to Kingdom
May Kunmakara
Tuesday, 11 May 2010

But Thai Business Council records growth in bilateral trade in the first quarter

A Red Shirt antigovernment protester sits on an abandoned Thai army armoured vehicle at the Democracy Monument in central Bangkok during last month's new year celebration.

THE number of new Thai investors coming to Cambodia from Thailand has slowed down as political unrest causes problems in Bangkok, the deputy manager of the Thai Business Council of Cambodia (TBCC) said Monday.

Trade data, released by the Thai embassy’s foreign trade promotion office Monday, showed that bilateral trade between Thailand and Cambodia in quarter one this year rose by almost 38 percent compared with last year.

Total trade reached US$527.9 million, up from $382.8 million during the first quarter last year, making up for a 28.36 percent contraction in bilateral trade in the first quarter of 2009 over 2008.

However, despite the positive indicators, the TBCC's deputy manager Kreing Kria said that the number of investors entering the Kingdom for the first time has slowed since antigovernment protests killed scores of people in Bangkok this year.

“The slow growth [of new investors] is because of the downturn in internal politics in Thailand,” he said.

Krieng Kria went on to raise concerns about the absence of a Thai ambassador in Phnom Penh. He was recalled after Cambodia appointed former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as an economic adviser last November. Thaksin’s Red Shirt supporters are now calling for the dissolution of the Thai government.

The lack of an ambassador remains a barrier for Thai businesspersons and investors entering the Kingdom, according to Kreing Kria.

“But in the near future, if the political unrest in Thailand finishes, I think we will have more [investors],” he said.

Cambodian officials have also noted a slowdown in trade growth, from a 2008 annualised high of 51.77 percent expansion.

“This is because of the downturn in the political environment between both countries, which has impacted the growth in volume of trade and investment from Thailand,” said the director of the Statistics Department at the Ministry of Commerce, Kong Putheara, Monday.

“But although we have got a political row, our people still make exchanges of goods with each other, especially those who live at the borders,” he added.

The latest statistics show that Thailand’s exports to Cambodia went up around 36.1 percent to $504.48 million in the first quarter, from $370.59 million last year. Cambodia’s exports to Thailand surged 91.63 percent to $23.4 million from $12.21 million.

Cambodia primarily exported agricultural products, secondhand garments, recycled metal and fish. Thailand’s exports included petroleum, consumer products, building materials, fruits, vegetables and cosmetics.

Kong Putheara added that because of political tension between Cambodia and Thailand, some members of the business community may be turning their attention to creating business links with Vietnam. But Kreing Kria said he is not worried about Vietnamese business in Cambodia.

“We also see many other countries like China or Korea come to the Kingdom, and we will try more to take market share here. The government still supports and encourages all the existing and the new Thai traders and investors,” he said.

Bilateral trade between Cambodia and Vietnam rose 127 percent in the first quarter to $432.5 million from only $190.52 million last year, according to the the embassy of Vietnam.