Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol has warned at least one company responsible for the construction of the Stung Bot-Ban Nong Ian international border checkpoint that it will be fined if it fails to follow the terms of the contract.

Chanthol made the warning during his visit to the construction site in Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet town on March 20, though he did not name the specific firm(s) he was referring to.

The checkpoint is in Phsar Kandal commune’s Stung Bot village on the Cambodian side – around 9km southeast of the main Poipet gate – and in Tha Kham subdistrict’s Ban Nong Ian village of Sa Kaeo province’s Aranyaprathet district at the terminus of Highway 3366 on the Thai side.

The construction is reportedly being undertaken by CM Grand Development Co Ltd & Tan Kim Eng Co Ltd and overseen by Team Consulting Engineering and Management Plc.

Chanthol said that now he does not expect that the construction will be ready in May as planned despite the firm(s) having received all of the funds for the work. He said the company(ies) had delayed completion of the work three times already and that the planned completion date was a year and a half ago.

“If the company[ies] continue[s] to further delay beyond the time frame set by the ministry, they will be fined. Due to the Covid-19 crisis, we had agreed to extend it until May. Now we will wait and see what the compan[ies] will have completed by May,” he said in Khmer, which does not distinguish between singular and plural grammatically.

“Currently, all vehicles are temporarily using this checkpoint because of the recent fire near the Poipet checkpoint. The main purpose of constructing this bridge at Stung Bot is to connect National Road 5 in order to avoid congestion in Poipet, which means that goods must enter through the Stung Bot-Ban Nong Ian checkpoint while passengers enter through the Poipet gate,” he said.

He said Cambodia previously asked the Thai side to open the checkpoint before the planned official inauguration but they cited difficulties in implementing the procedures.

“According to what officials at the checkpoint reported to me, it is easier for trucks transporting goods to use it rather than go through Poipet as it saves up to three hours because there is no traffic congestion. This is the main goal of the new checkpoint, to avoid congestion. This gate is very important. Without this gate, there will be no goods entering or exiting between Cambodia and Thailand,” he said.

He said the ministry would work with their Thai counterparts to speed up procedures to provide timely funding to builders to push for the completion of the border crossing on Thailand’s side on time.

Cambodia Logistics Association (CLA) president Sin Chanthy said it was faster and easier due to less congestion than what is found at the Poipet gate.

“The temporary opening of the Stung Bot-Ban Nong Ian International Border Checkpoint has made for better transportation that is faster and time saving and boosts trade between Cambodia and Thailand. We expect that his gate will increase the flow of goods,” he said.

According to data from the General Department of Customs and Excise of Cambodia (GDCE), bilateral trade between Cambodia and Thailand from January to February was at $657 million, a decrease of 9.4 per cent compared to the same period last year.