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Cambodian, Thai Leaders Mark Reopening of Rail Link

In this photo released by the Government Spokesman's Office, Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha (L) shakes hand with Cambodian's Prime Minister Hun Sen at the Thai-Cambodian border town of Aranyaprathet, Thailand, April 22, 2019.

The leaders of Cambodia and Thailand met Monday at the Thai border town of Aranyaprathet to mark the ceremonial reopening of a rail link that will restore train service between the two countries after more than four decades.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Thai counterpart, Prayuth Chan-ocha, took a brief train ride across the border from Aranyaprathet to Cambodia's Poipet to celebrate the occasion. Each also shoveled some cement to mark the completion of a nearby cross-border bridge for automotive traffic.

Thai officials said regular cross-border rail service is expected to be restored soon.

The two leaders signed an agreement on operating the cross-border rail link.

Thailand helped fund Cambodia's rail line and will also hand over a train with four carriages.

Service between the two countries was suspended in the early 1970s when the track was destroyed during Cambodia's civil war. Only in the late 1990s was security completely restored with the defeat of the Cambodia's communist Khmer Rouge guerrilla army.

Restoration work in Cambodia has already been completed from Poipet to the northwestern province of Sisophon, which has rail service to the capital, Phnom Penh.

There are plans to eventually offer service to Phnom Penh from the Thai capital, Bangkok, but there is not yet a schedule for reopening that route. The connection would be integrated into regional plans to link most of mainland Southeast Asian from Kunming in southern China through what has been called the Southern Economic Corridor.

Hun Sen said at Monday's ceremony that the new rail connection would help develop both countries' economies, especially by connecting to the rest of the Southeast Asian region.