Bilateral trade between Cambodian and Thailand continues to rise, despite the ongoing border conflict, officials said Monday.
Trade between the two reached $716 million in the first three months of the year, up 35 percent from the year before, according to numbers provided by the Thai Embassy.
That increase has come despite a rise in tension along disputed border areas, including deadly clashes in February and April.
“The sporadic border clashes between Cambodian and Thai soldiers have had a very slight impact on trade activities,” said Chan Nora, secretary of state for the Ministry of Commerce. “Trade is for profit. When businessmen think something is profitable, they’ll do it.”
Thailand exports petroleum, processed goods, consumer products, construction materials, fruits, vegetables and cosmetics to Cambodia, while importing agricultural goods, second-hand garments, recyclable metal and fishing products.
Thun Saray, president of the rights group Adhoc, said the trade activity was an important aspect of the relationship between the two countries, one that itself could lead to peaceful developments.
“Bilateral trade activity can conduct a comfortable condition toward negotiation to the countries’ conflict,” he said.
Chheang Vannarith, executive director of Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, agreed.
Trade “will not directly participate in resolving the border dispute, but it is a positive factor,” he said. “It is an important secondary factor.”
Chan Sophal, president of the Cambodian Economic Association, said the political leaders on both sides understand the importance of trade and economics such as these, which can promote more cooperation.
Jiranan Wongmongkol, director of foreign trade promotion at the Thai Embassy, said the increase was “due to mutual trust between Cambodian and Thai businessmen and Cambodians’ faith in Thai products.”
“We expect the rising trend to continue throughout the year,” he said.