Thailand and Cambodia have never been closer: Thai PM

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has labelled Thailand and Cambodia's relationship as "the best" it has been in the 65 years of ties between the two countries, after they signed five agreements to strengthen co-operation in various sectors. He said both nations had to work together for the benefit of their people, based on mutual trust and less suspicion.

The agreements signed yesterday at Government House focus on economic, security, labour and social issues as well as promoting co-operation between private enterprises.

They were inked after General Prayut and his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen co-chaired the second Thailand-Cambodia Joint Cabinet Retreat (JRC) as part of 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.

PM Prayut said Cambodia and Thailand would co-operate more closely under ASEAN integration. The two countries would emphasise closer collaborations in many issues, in particular tackling human trafficking, he said.

"To facilitate more trade and investment growth, Thailand and Cambodia will upgrade border checkpoints and will establish the Thailand-Cambodia bridge linking Sa Kaew province with Cambodia's Banteay Meanchey province within one year, while will also establish a railway linkage within six months," Prayut said.

Thailand and Cambodia have also targeted a rise in mutual investment in the next five years.

Hun Sen thanked the government for its warm welcome during his two-day visit. He said Cambodia would extensively co-operate with Thailand, in an attempt to drive bilateral trade growth to US$15 billion (S$21.1 billion) annually in 2020.

Two-way trade between Thailand and Cambodia is worth $5 billion annually, with Thailand shipments to Cambodia valued at US$4.5 billion.

Other areas the neighbours aim to strengthen co-operation include security, connectivity, trade, investment, and border development.

On the security issue, both sides agreed to |expedite the commencement of coordinated patrols along their shared border to combat illegal logging, while further enhancing their co-operation in combating drug trafficking, human trafficking, and transnational crimes.

On connectivity, they agreed to improve road, coastal, shipping and rail transport services. A train service between Bangkok and Phnom Penh is slated to start operation by the end of 2016.

They also agreed to expedite the opening of two additional checkpoints in Sa Kaew and Banteay Meanchey, namely Nong Ian-Stung Bot and Ban Pa Rai - O' Neang to facilitate the movement of goods and promote the development of special |economic zones for both countries.

Both sides also agreed to improve infrastructure and customs linkages to facilitate the free movement of people and labour in the SEZs. The two countries will allow more cars to cross border checkpoints - 40 cars per day to 200 cars per day.

On their agricultural co-operation, they will convene a working group to discuss ways to strengthen the co-operation. Thailand agreed to provide technical support in the sector on a project-based basis over the next three years.

On public health, both will intensify their co-operation especially along cross-border areas, including simplifying the cross-border referral system and setting up a sister hospitals arrangements. Thailand will provide technical support to help Cambodia improve its medical professionals and public health workers.

On the labour issue, Thailand will continue to provide technical support to on labour skills development along the border and conduct training courses at the Thailand-Cambodia Skills Development Centre in Phnom Penh.

On tourism, they agreed to further promote the "Two Kingdoms, One Destination" scheme in a bid to attract more tourists between the two countries.

The five agreements signed include a joint declaration on future co-operation and a memorandum of understanding on the development of cross-border control facilities at Nong Ian, Thailand, and Stung Bot, Cambodia. Also signed were a MoU on labour co-operation, an agreement on employment for workers, and agreement on co-operation between the Thai-Cambodia Business Council and the Cambodia-Thailand Business Council.