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Thailand, Cambodia Strengthen Ties

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen (L) and Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha shake hands during a news conference after an agreement signing ceremony at the Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, Dec.19, 2015.

Thailand and Cambodia have agreed to boost economic and business ties during an official visit to Thailand by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The visit marks a major thawing in bilateral relations strained in recent years.
The visit by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen was the first in 12 years.

Speaking after the signing of several agreements to boost trade, business and security, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said both countries aim to strengthen bilateral relations.

Prayut said the Thai-Cambodian relationship was currently at its best.

Thai investment

Earlier, Hun Sen called for more Thai investment at a Thai and Cambodian business forum. The two countries pledged to triple bilateral trade and investment by 2020.

Thammasat University economist Pavida Pananond said labor cooperation and employment agreements they signed highlighted the important role Cambodian migrant workers played in the Thai economy

“Cambodia is also the second most important source of labor in the Thai economy. So I think that given the significance of the economic interests between the two countries that perhaps has toned down the kind of hostile relationship that they had a few years before,” Pavida said.

Tensions between Cambodia and Thailand escalated in the past decade in a conflict over the demarcation of the ninth century Hindu temple known in Cambodia as Prasat Preah Vihea, or in Thai as Preah Vihear.

Border clashes erupted between their forces from 2008 until 2011 when the dispute was settled by the International Court of Justice.

2006 coup

Hun Sen had close ties with Thailand’s former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted in a 2006 coup and through the next government led by his sister Yingluck Shinawatra, whose administration was deposed by Prayut last year.

Economist Pavida said both countries now appeared to view bilateral ties in more pragmatic terms.

“From the view point of Cambodia, Thailand is a major economic power in the region and the Cambodian economy depends quite a lot on the Thai economy. And I think from the Cambodian perspective that is the economic interests in their future, and regional economic development,” she said.

She said the Thai military government was also looking to boost regional ties amid an economic slowdown and a weak export outlook.