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Thursday, October 15, 2009

VN-Cambodia border gates ’will increase trade, tourism’

VietNamNet Bridge – The opening of three more border gates between Viet Nam and Cambodia earlier this month will create more opportunities for trade and tourism between the two countries, economists say.

Xa Mat gate is located in Tay Ninh province, Tinh Bien gate in An Giang province and Ha Tien gate in Kien Giang province, all in southern Viet Nam.

The move is part of an agreement signed between the two countries in 2005 to open seven border gates in the long run.

After the first border gate of Moc Bai was put into operation in 2006, the number of vehicles going through it increased from 80 to 300 by March this year. According to Phan Thi Thu Hien, deputy head of the Transport Department under the Ministry of Transport’s Road Administration, the sluggish infrastructure development coupled with complicated import-export policies applied at border gate areas was to blame for the delay in opening more border gates.

The business community, meanwhile, has seen new opportunities.

Huynh Huu Phuc, head of the finance and legal group of Bitis, one of Viet Nam’s biggest shoe producers that has branches in Cambodia, said that his company was conducting research to open more branches in Cambodian provinces that have convenient transportation to and from Viet Nam.

Pho Duc Hung, vice-president of Viettel Post, a subsidiary of Viet Nam’s Military Telecom Corporation (Viettel), which is now the largest telecommunications service provider in Cambodia, said that his company was hoping to open more branches in Vietnamese provinces that have border gates to Cambodia.

Hung said that having more border gates would cut down on transportation costs and help businesses. He said currently his company had to send their products via other companies and was thinking of sending them directly to Cambodia using their own vehicles.

Trade and commerce between Viet Nam and Cambodia has been quickly expanding. More than 100 Vietnamese companies are now operating in Cambodia, mostly in agro-forestry, services and industrial sectors. In Viet Nam, many Cambodian companies are also doing business with local companies including Golden Eagle Meng Sun Fish Sauce Enterprise, LyLy Food Industry and Sin Tai Seng Tea-Coffee factory.

In addition, tourist potential will benefit both countries. According to statistics from the Cambodian Ministry of Tourism, Vietnamese tourists constituted the second greatest number of foreign tourists in Cambodia in 2007 and 2008, 9.86 per cent of the total. The number of Vietnamese tourists in 2008 increased dramatically at a rate of 67.02 per cent from the previous year. As more border gates open, tour costs will decrease and the number of tourists will increase.

Phan Thanh, vice president of Phuong Nam Star Travel, said the border gate openings were very good news for Vietnamese tourists as they now could travel to Cambodia more conveniently and for lower prices.

However, Thanh also underlined the fact that more borders gates will also mean already-existing companies facing more competition, as more local companies in border areas open. According to the agreement between the two countries, another three border gates will open, helping boost bilateral trade.

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1,000 Cambodian schools still closed after storm Ketsana

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Flooding caused by Typhoon Ketsana prevented almost a thousand Cambodian schools from opening at the start of the academic year, keeping tens of thousands of students home, an Education Ministry official said Thursday.

Chroeng Limsry, director of the secondary education department, said some schools were still inundated while others had been damaged by the storm, which swept through the country late last month. Cambodia has about 7,000 schools nationwide attended by more than 3 million students. They should have opened at the beginning of this month.

Typhoon Ketsana toppled scores of rickety houses in Cambodia, killing at least 18 people and injuring 100 others.

Keo Vy, communications officer at the National Committee for Disaster Management, said initial estimates were that the storm caused at least $29.3 million in damage.

The British-based international aid agency Oxfam warned Thursday that "a food crisis is looming in flood-affected communities."

It said an estimated 100,000 people in eight provinces remain affected by the floods, and 15,000 households need immediate food assistance.

The situation is expected to get worse unless food assistance is provided urgently, it said.

"Many of the affected families are forced to borrow rice from each other, but now finding enough food is a big challenge," it said in a statement. "In some communities, Oxfam has also observed an increase in food prices which further weakens the capacities of the most vulnerable to live life in dignity." - AP
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Cambodian Charcoal Market Is Booming

By Simon Marks

According to a 2008 study conducted jointly by Cambodia’s Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, the United Nations Development Program and the environmental group Geres, the number of households projected to use charcoal as an energy source in Cambodia will rise from about 500,000 currently to more than one million in 2015.

That projected increase has raised concerns among environmentalists, who note that charcoal production entails the removal of vast quantities of woodland, often in naturally growing forests, as well as high levels of “black carbon” or soot — which scientists say plays a significant role in global warming.

The report values the current annual market for charcoal in the capital, Phnom Penh, at $25 million — a number that is expected to more than double in size during the next five years based on current trends.

And while the authors note a shift towards modern energy sources, “the demand for firewood, charcoal, kerosene and batteries will remain high over the next decades,” the report said.
Wood burners for cooking, which are used extensively in Asia and Africa, produce large quantities of soot particles, which scientists say is responsible for as much as 18 percent of global warming.

David Beritault, an energy expert at Geres, said that much of the charcoal made in Cambodia has not been sufficiently burned to complete its transformation from wood, a phenomenon that leads to higher levels of black carbon in the atmosphere.

Black carbon can travel long distances, warming the air and melting ice by absorbing the sun’s heat.

But charcoal, if produced correctly, can burn almost smokeless, and is less polluting than wood — although it does emit greenhouse gases during its production. Geres is currently involved in a so-called “green charcoal” project that aims to make charcoal with more energy-efficient wood.

“If we can control the process we can produce the same amount of charcoal but with less wood,” said Mr Beritault.

Environmentalists also say that water filters, which cost about $7.50, could be used instead of having to boil water to make it potable. Moreover, Biodigesters, which provide a cheap source of fuel by converting organic waste into biogas, is another option that could improve health conditions inside households that cook with wood and charcoal.

Still, 27 percent of residents in Phnom Penh are currently using charcoal as their main energy source, according to the Ministry of Industry, and urban demand for charcoal is expected to nearly triple over the next two decades.

Khiev Thim, a charcoal merchant in the Phnom Penh who, on a recent morning, sold roughly 1,300 lbs. of charcoal to a avariety of households and small businesses, said that demand in the city was fierce.

“We sell it everywhere in the city,” he said, “except along the main roads.”
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