Thailand and Cambodia have agreed to elevate their bilateral relations to a “strategic partnership,” which will open up many new opportunities for them to work more closely together.
The agreement was reached when Prime Minister Samdech Moha Borvor Thipadei Hun Manet of the Kingdom of Cambodia paid an official visit to Thailand on 7 February 2024 and had a comprehensive discussion with Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Srettha Thavisin.
Prime Minister Srettha summarized some key highlights from his discussion with the Cambodian Prime Minister. For instance, Thailand will open a new Consulate-General in Siem Reap, while Cambodia will open a new Consulate-General in Songkhla soon this year.
Concerning security cooperation, he said that Thailand and Cambodia agreed to maintain peace and stability, especially along the Thai-Cambodian border. Prime Minister Srettha reassured the Cambodian Prime Minister that it is Thailand’s policy not to allow anyone to use Thailand as a platform to interfere in the internal affairs or conduct harmful activities against neighboring countries. The two countries will also strengthen cooperation to fight transnational crimes, especially cyber scam networks.
Both Thailand and Cambodia will accelerate economic cooperation. In 2023, their bilateral trade volume stood at about eight billion US dollars, which is still short of their target of 15 billion dollars by 2025. In order to inject new energy into bilateral trade, Thailand will host the seventh Joint Trade Committee at the Commerce Minister level as early as May, to come up with a plan to boost the volume of bilateral trade.
Thailand and Cambodia also agreed to strengthen their cooperation in the field of energy security and discuss further the joint exploitation of the hydrocarbon resources in the Overlapping Claims Area between the two countries.
They pledged to make the Thai-Cambodian border free from landmines and will move quickly on humanitarian demining in pilot areas to make their border areas safe for their people. They will also make progress on the upgrading of pending border-crossing checkpoints.
Both Thailand and Cambodia will enhance cooperation on tourism. About 1.8 million Thais visited Cambodia in 2023, making Thais the largest group of visitors to Cambodia. In the meantime, Thailand is one of the top destinations for Cambodians.
The two countries will look into ways to make it easier for tourists to travel across borders and visit points of interest in Thailand and Cambodia, as well as in other neighboring countries in one trip. They will join hand in the “Six-Countries, One-Destination” campaign to promote regional tourism, and work together on the update of the Agreement on Border Crossing to allow for the use of temporary border passes, longer stays, and access to non-border provinces, such as Siem Reap. In addition, they will resume negotiations on the Bilateral Agreement on Cross-Border Transportation by Road to enable border crossing by private cars.
Thailand and Cambodia also agreed to increase cooperation to tackle the problem of transboundary haze pollution to ensure clean air for the people of both countries. They will set up a Joint Working Group to map out cooperation, including (1) establishing a hotline for sharing of information and alerts on burning locations, (2) emergency responses, and (3) capacity-building and sharing of best practices in such areas as agricultural burning management. Prime Minister Srettha invited Cambodia to join the “CLEAR Sky” strategy with Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar to work together on this issue.
Regarding labor cooperation, Thailand stressed that it attaches high importance to making sure that Cambodian workers in Thailand receive fair treatment and a proper economic safety net.