Cambodia and Thailand on June 6 formally rolled out Phase II of their transnational QR (Quick Response) code payment system. Through this initiative, the two ASEAN kingdoms seek to promote financial inclusion and the use of local currencies as well as cross-border trade and tourism flows.

The system currently enables KHQR payments to 7.6 million merchants in Thailand and ThaiQR payments to 1.5 million merchants in Cambodia, according to a statement posted on National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) deputy governor Chea Serey’s official Facebook page later that day.

KHQR and ThaiQR are universal QR code standards for retail payments in Cambodia and Thailand, respectively.

The launch came during a bilateral meeting in Phnom Penh between NBC governor Chea Chanto and his Bank of Thailand (BoT) counterpart Sethaput Suthiwartnarueput, the NBC noted in a press release.

The meeting also sought to strengthen collaboration in banking sector development, financial technology (fintech) and other economic areas, the NBC said.

Phase I of the project had “allowed Cambodians to pay for goods or services through mobile banking applications by scanning QR codes at retail merchants in Thailand, and vice versa”, the release recapped.

The NBC deputy governor’s statement affirmed that the gathering was the annual bilateral meeting between the NBC and BoT, and involved “the sharing of lessons learnt in many area[s] in central banking”.

“From Tokyo, I headed straight from the airport to the meeting and launch with very little sleep (and a lot of coffee) so much excited I was about this collaboration,” it said.

“In 2020 we launched Cambodia selected banks’ QR scanning QR from elected banks in Thailand,” said a different post on the same Facebook page.

Phase I of the project was formally launched at a bilateral meeting between the two central banks on February 18, 2020 in Thailand. This came after the NBC and BoT inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to collaborate on financial innovation and payment systems.

On July 3, 2022, the NBC formally launched the KHQR system – following a pilot run – which the central bank notes was created for cross-border retail payments within ASEAN.

Meanwhile, the central bank reaffirmed in its Annual Supervision Report 2022 that e-payment trends in Cambodia have significantly consolidated in recent years as more and more people transition from cash-based to digital transaction options.

By end-2022, “the number of registered e-wallet account[s] increased to 19.5 million and the total number of transactions jumped from 708 million to one billion with a total amount of $272.8 billion (increased by 34 per cent), approximately nine times the gross domestic product (GDP)”, the report said.

The report also highlighted some of the many recent initiatives to improve cross-border payment mechanisms and schemes with surrounding countries.

“After a successful cooperation with the Bank of Thailand, the NBC has been working with the Bank of [the] Lao PDR and the State Bank of Vietnam to connect with payment systems of the countries, aiming at making cross-border payment more convenient, faster, safer, and inclusive,” it said.