Malaysia and Cambodia reestablished diplomatic relations in 1991 and since then, bilateral relations had flourished, along with trade and industry. Today, Malaysian investors are among the top five in terms of investments in Cambodia.
Among the flagship investments are the NagaWorld, integrated resort and entertainment complex, telecommunications in the form of Smart Axiata, hotels such as Sunway and others, power producers, manufacturing, infrastructure development to trading and property development.
The Cambodia – Malaysia trade volume for 2015 was estimated at $385.9 million. Malaysian exports to Cambodia was valued at $234.4 million whereas imports of Cambodian products was valued at $151.3 million.
Khmer Times, in conjunction with the official visit of Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen, has talked to several captains of Malaysian Industry and also the President of the Malaysian Business Council in Cambodia and has put together a 12 page feature to coincide with the visit.
The Malaysian Business Council of Cambodia (MBCC) was first established more than 20 years ago as foreign investors started coming into Cambodia. There has been a strong Malaysian presence in the Kingdom since the end of the civil war and Malaysians have played key roles in not only establishing their own businesses, but also in helping the Cambodian government in many sectors. Teh Sing is the President of the Malaysian Business Council of Cambodia and he spoke to Khmer Times about the past, the present and the future roles Malaysians play in Cambodia.
KT: Could you please outline the activities of the MBCC and its role in promoting business and investment activities between Malaysia and Cambodia.
Mr. Teh Sing: You can go into our MBCC website “mbccambodia.org” and go into sub section “About – Main Activities” and that will tell you all you want to know.
KT: In its years of existence, how active has the MBCC been in tackling business issues which affect Malaysian businesses and investments and how has it used its representation in the various working groups to resolve these issues?
Mr. Teh Sing: We work very closely with the Malaysian Embassy to direct business issues to the various related ministries. We are also active in the various working groups, especially Group D – “Law, Tax and Good Governance” – which I was personally involved in since day one.
KT: Could you give us some examples of the issues tackled and resolved by the MBCC in collaboration with the Malaysian Embassy and the Royal Government?
Mr. Teh Sing: One good case in point is the case of the rampant smuggling of beer into the country. The government has set up an anti-smuggling committee with representation from the customs department and tax department and headed by myself as the chair. This also resulted in the setting up of custom departments in all provinces, which also check on the presence of smuggled beer in outlets in these provinces.
Another case was during the demonstration by workers in December 2013 at Malaysian-owned garment factories, where properties were destroyed and gates were push down. The MBCC and the Malaysian ambassador were able to persuade the Cambodian government to act fast to prevent any further loss of properties and also to ensure the safety of all Malaysians and their workers.
KT: You have been a pioneer in Cambodia with almost 25 years of experience. What would you advise Malaysian businesses who want to start in Cambodia and to the new entities which have started here?
Mr. Teh Sing: To come in for the long haul and with deep pockets. The government is young and government policies are still evolving. New prakas will be introduced over time and may impact on your projected capital investment and profit and loss. A good case in point is the recent prakas on March 22, 2016, by the National Bank of Cambodia, which requires banks to double their capital to $75 million in two years.
KT: Malaysia was and is still a leading investor in Cambodia, but has sort of slowed down in recent years. What would the MBCC do to keep the current ranking and boost it to its former glory?
Mr. Teh Sing: With the Asean Economic Community formation in 2015, we will still be active in working alongside Matrade to bring more investors to Cambodia. It is already a priority of the current Malaysian government to increase its focus on exporting Malaysian products.
KT: What activities is the MBCC active in to boost membership as well as to make its presence felt in Cambodia as a leading business organization?
Mr. Teh Sing: We are not active in boosting membership. The MBCC has never worked on the premise of total number of members. We have always focused on serving our Malaysian businesses. We welcome Malaysian businesses which feel they need our services. We only encourage Malaysian businesses to join us if they feel they can benefit from us. The very fact that we have not raised our membership fee until last July 2015 from July 1997 speaks volumes of the MBCC subsidizing members all these years. We are the oldest and most active foreign business association, since 1993. We have never failed to carry out our monthly meeting and activities for the past 23 years. We even helped found the Cambodian Federation of Employers and Business Associations (CAMFEBA).
KT: Cambodia’s prime minister will be on an official visit to Malaysia soon. What will the MBCC do to promote this visit with a view to rekindling business and investment activities?
Mr. Teh Sing: We have already updated our Trade Commissioner based in Ho Chi Minh City on the current status of Malaysian businesses in Cambodia. The Trade Commissioner likewise will be updating the Malaysian government on the various businesses currently in Cambodia. In this way, at the bilateral meeting in Kuala Lumpur, our Malaysian government will be able to explore the business opportunities available.
KT: What would you tell the Malaysian business community who may be contemplating investing in Cambodia?
Mr. Teh Sing: This is a very pro-business government and you can also have 100 percent ownership and the opportunities for businesses here are still very good.
KT: Is the MBCC in affiliation with any other Malaysian business councils or organizations elsewhere?
Mr. Teh Sing: The MBCC is a member of the Indo China Malaysian Business Chambers, which meet once a year to exchange and update the business climates in each country. We last met in March 2016 in Bangkok for our second cycle of this group. The Malaysian Laos Business Council hosted the final circuit in September 2015. Cambodia is third in this circuit. We will be hosting this meet in 2018. Myanmar will be hosting in 2017.
The host – Samdech Hun Sen with Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
Samdech Hun Sen accompanying his Malaysian counterpart as he inspects a Guard of Honor.
Delegates at the 5th Indochina Malaysian Business Chamber Summit at Lao PDR.