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Markets Along Thai- Cambodian Border Revive As Tensions Ease


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Markets along Thai-Cambodian border revive as tensions ease

Cross-border trade between Thailand and Cambodia along the northeastern province of Surin has been staggered since the border dispute between the two countries over the ancient Preah Vihear temple and overlapping area erupted in mid-2008. Today, the situation has returned to normal, but how’s the trading of the two nations? Let’s find out.

Cambodia’s O’Samach market across from Thailand’s Chong Jom border crossing in Surin has been revived, after seven months of tension and the military standoff between the two countries eased.

A Cambodian trader said the border dispute and the deadly clashes last year scared Thai customers who usually crossed the border to the market, while the Cambodians were also reluctant to cross into Thai territory for fear they could not return to their homeland if tensions rose.

With the situation having improved in January thanks to border talks, O’Samach market welcome about 600 Thais daily. The number might not be as many as before the border dispute flared up, but it’s much better than the last quarter of 2008.

"When the Preah Vihear dispute eased, Thai people came back to our market as they did before. But our sales still drop to 70%. We used to sell 100% before the border problems happened," said a Cambodian trader.

As normal trade activities resume, people seem more comfortable, as seen in a traditional coffee shop where Cambodians usually relax during the trading day. They enjoy sipping tea and coffee while watching DVD movies with their friends.

Across the border in Thai territory is Chong Jom market. Here the atmosphere is also lively. As most of the traders are Cambodian, when the tensions flared they all closed their shops and fled to their home. Now they’re come back, bringing more traders with them. Market operators say market expansion is needed to facilitate these new traders.

"The old Cambodian traders told their descendants that trading in the Thai market was always doing well. So they followed the old traders here. Now we have to expand the market area to support these new comers, said Plaeng Charoensuk, Chong Jom Market Operator.

Cambodians are still dependant on purchasing everyday necessities, as well as construction materials and petrol from Thailand, while they export mainly agricultural products to the kingdom.

-- TNA 2009-02-17

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