As an agreement on railway transportation materialises, Cambodia and Thailand are set to hold a ceremony early next year to celebrate the official opening of the line that will connect Phnom Penh and Bangkok, a representative of the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation (MPWT) said yesterday.
The ceremony will be attended by Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Thai counterpart, General Prayut Chan-o-cha, said Ly Borin, an Under Secretary of State at the MPWT.
The new railway will link Phnom Penh and the Thai capital Bangkok via Poipet city, which shares the border with Aranyaprathet in Thailand.
“By early next year we will organise the official connection of the railway line between Cambodia and Thailand, and premiers of both countries are scheduled to preside over the ceremony,” Mr Borin said.
The agreement on railway transportation between the two nations is being drafted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation after several years of negotiations by the parties involved, said Mr Borin, adding that the agreement will be signed before the end of 2017.
“We want the agreement to be signed before the end of the year so the official linking ceremony can be held by early 2018,” he said.
However, Mr Borin noted that Cambodia still has to lay down one more kilometre of line. Discussions over customs duties at the border have not concluded either.
“On the Cambodian side, a kilometre of railway needs to be finished. With the rainy season in full swing, this is no easy task,” he said.
“We have to have further discussions with Thailand over the price of transporting goods in and out of the country through this border.”
Soeng Sophary, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Commerce, said Thailand is one of the kingdom’s main trade partners, adding that both governments enjoy very close and amicable relations.
“Achieving $15 billion in cross-border trade by 2020 is possible due to strong ties between both governments,” Mrs Sophary said.
“The value of imports from Thailand has decreased a bit due to the fact that more Thai investors are building factories in Cambodia, but Cambodia’s exports to Thailand have actually increased.”
The new railway will play a key role in improving infrastructure, which will help the countries reach their trade goals, Ms. Sophary said.
The Cambodia-Thailand railway line, part of the eastern corridor of the Singapore-Kunming Rail Link, has suffered multiple delays. It is considered a key project in boosting bilateral trade and increasing the movement of people between both nations.
A railway station in Poipet city is now under construction. According to Mr Borin, it will be finished by the end of the year.