Cambodia and Thailand have agreed on three points of an agenda related to opening additional border crossings and allowing Cambodian workers to return to work in Thailand.
A specific date for opening is to be determined pending further medical studies to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Announcement of the progress came after a meeting on December 17 between Cambodian and Thai leaders, held at the request of Thailand’s Sa Kaeo provincial administration. The meeting took place at the Ban Khao Din-Phnom Dey international border checkpoint between Sa Kaeo’s Khlong Hat district and Battambang province’s Sampov Loun district.
Banteay Meanchey provincial deputy governor Ngor Meng Chruon, who also attended the meeting, told The Post on December 17 that Cambodian and Thai authorities had tentatively agreed to allow Cambodian agricultural sector workers to enter Thailand in the morning to go to work and then return in the evening.
He added that the two sides also agreed to allow Cambodian traders to do business at Rong Kluea market in Sa Kaeo’s Aranyaprathet district. Both sides also agreed to a temporary re-opening of the Stung Bot-Ban Nong Ian international border checkpoint as another shipping lane to reduce congestion at the Poipet-Ban Khlong Luek checkpoint.
“As a result, we have agreed on one step, and now we need to continue to discuss details of the medical prevention and control measures between the two sides when crossing – and then the specific date of the opening,” he said.
According to Meng Chruon, authorities from both countries have agreed to meet again, by late December or early January, and both sides will also continue discussions by phone. Implementing the three agreements as soon as possible will benefit the people of both countries, he said.
“We will utilise all means at our disposal to reach an agreement between the provinces [of both countries] so that our compatriots may go to work in Thai territory as well as follow the sanitary and self-quarantine measures of the Ministry of Health,” Meng Chruon added.
He noted that the border had been closed by Thai authorities, and opening it would make conducting business easier for the Cambodian people.
Battambang provincial governor Nguon Rattanak told The Post on December 17 that some Cambodians had recently been crossing the border secretly through small corridors in order to work in Thailand. They crossed in the morning and returned in the evening, despite official closure of the border.
Because of this, he said it is in the interests of both sides to formalise border-crossing arrangements: people crossing illegally without proper controls increase risks of transmitting Covid-19.
The Thai side is continuing to hold internal discussions regarding health care measures and logistics for accepting workers from Cambodia, Rattanak said.
Din Puthy, president of the Cambodia Informal Economy Reinforced Association, praised both sides for agreeing to allow Cambodians to cross the border for work and business. He hopes a decision to set a specific opening date will happen soon, as any delays will cause further hardships for the people who depend on doing business at the border.
“If it continues to be closed for a long time, the livelihoods of people living along the border will be even more difficult. Immediately after the gates closed, our lives became more and more difficult, and the poor became poorer and poorer with almost nothing to eat. People of modest means are gradually falling into debt,” he said.
The Thai government announced the closure of its border with Cambodia in March. After a series of negotiations, the two countries agreed to resume bilateral trade at a number of border checkpoints, although Thailand remains under a state of emergency to prevent the spread of Covid-19.