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Business as usual in border areas

Amid rising concerns over the recent border clashes between Thailand and Cambodia, Thai businesses insist it is business as usual because they are confident the clashes will remain contained.

But most are closely monitoring events and admit further investments in Cambodia may have to be reconsidered.

Chamroon Chinthammit, the chief executive of Khon Kaen Sugar Industry Plc (KSL), which has a factory in Cambodia, said its business was still operating as usual because the plant is situated 500 to 600 kilometres away from the clashes.

He said although this was the most violent border incident in the past few years, workers were used to these clashes because they have happened before.

About 100 Thais and 1,000 Cambodians work at KSL’s factory in Cambodia, and so far none have relocated.

“Our partners, which have a 30% share in the investment, are monitoring the situation closely and so far the Cambodian government has not interfered with our business,” said Mr Chamroon.

Production capacity at KSL’s sugar mill in Cambodia is 200,000 tonnes per year, or 4% of its total production capacity of 5 million tonnes. It has already made investments to increase production to 400,000 tonnes next year.

“However, further investment needs to be reconsidered,” said Mr Chamroon.

Prajya Phinyawat, chief operations officer of PTT Plc, said six petrol stations of PTT at Phnom Penh remain open as usual and have not been affected by the fighting. But he noted the company is on full alert in case the clashes expand to affect the pump business.

PTT’s oil sales are estimated at about 1.3 million to 1.4 million litres per month in Cambodia.

Meanwhile, Thai traders still plan to continue organising a trade fair in Phnom Penh from Feb 17-20 but on a smaller scale, said Commerce Minister Porntiva Nakasai.

The Department of Export Promotion was instructed to hold the mini-fair for Thai entrepreneurs already operating in Phnom Penh, as Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen guaranteed the safety of the participants.

However, the larger-scale Thailand Trade Exhibition 2011 will be postponed to next month. This fair expects 103 exhibitors occupying 200 booths.

Jiranan Wongmongkol, director of the Thai Trade Center in Phnom Penh, said there had been no boycotts of Thai products in Cambodian markets.

She said Hun Sen delivered a speech on Monday urging Cambodians not to be too nationalistic and that they should separate trade issues from the border conflict as Thai people are both good and bad.

“Thais may be too afraid about the situation in Cambodia and perceive the country is dreadful. But actually, the annual Thai Trade Exhibition has been heartily accepted by the Cambodian people,” said Ms Jiranan.

Energy Minister Wannarat Channukul said his agency had not been informed by the national security unit that Thailand would cease fuel transport to Cambodia.

“An order to ban fuel transport cannot be made by the ministry independently. It requires a prior request from the national security agency,” he said.

Prakit Chinamourphong, president of the Thailand Hotels Association, said Thai hotel operators in Cambodia might be worried because the Royal Phnom Penh was burnt by angry Cambodians in 2003.

However, he is confident the situation will remain under control.

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