Sun Chanthol, first vice-president of the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC), led a working group on an inspection of the Stung Bot-Ban Nong Ian International Border Checkpoint project in Banteay Meanchey province on February 24. 

The visit was arranged following the 27th meeting of the Cambodia-Japan joint committee on February 15. Japanese investors in the Poipet special economic zone (SEZ) have previously asked for a solution to be found to the issue of slow exports to Thailand from the province.

The inspection tour allowed representatives of the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to assess the progress of the checkpoint.

While speaking to media during the inspection, Chanthol explained that the Cambodian side of the checkpoint was completed in August last year, but could not be formally opened, as the Thai authorities need to complete their own internal procedures and construct their facilities.

“Every six months, we meet with the Japanese side. They have brought up the slow pace of imports and exports at the Poipet and Bavet international border checkpoints. We want to demarcate the new Stung Bot checkpoint for goods and the Poipet checkpoint for people,” he added.

“However, there are hiccoughs from the Thai side. They have yet to complete their building work. The Japanese has requested that we work with the Thais to get the new gate operating,” he continued.

Chanthol said a ministry working group was collaborating with relevant partners to adjust the gate and customs procedures and documents, at a cost of $10 million, with only scanners required to begin functioning. Once the Thais are ready, the first phase of operation can begin.

He added that the ministry was in talks with the Thais side to conduct a second-phase study. Cambodia’s goal is to expand container transport facilities and connect railway lines to expedite the transport of goods.

Cambodia Logistics Association president Sin Chanthy shared his belief that the Stung Bot International Border Checkpoint is very important for the transport sector. He was pleased at the work done by the Cambodian authorities, but concerned that the Thai side appeared to be unable to complete its part of the job.

He added that he agreed with the separation of goods and passenger border crossings, in order to increase the efficiency of both.

“As far as I understand, the gate is ready on our side, and the Customs Department will install scanners soon, while the Thai side has yet to complete construction,” he said.

“When the new crossing is 100 per cent ready, transport will be far more efficient, and the exchange of goods between Thailand and Cambodia will increase,” he added.

Chanthol said Japanese investors in the SEZ had also raised other small issues, including the water and electricity supply, and online gambling.

“They asked that we resolve the issue of unclean water, and of frequent power outages that paralyse production lines. Online gambling was a problem I was unaware of, but they have mentioned that several employees have become addicted and therefore less productive,” he added.

He explained that he would raise the water and electricity supply issues with the relevant authorities to push for a solution, while noting that the government has already ordered a halt to online gambling and would no longer issue lottery licences.