>Koh Kong development marks ‘new era’ of Thai-Cambodian links

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Thai Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama cuts the ribbon while Cambodian PM Hun Sen (left) looks on.
By Neth Pheaktra
The Mekong Times
The long-dilapidated 152-km National Highway 48 is to become a major commercial artery, driving economic cooperation between Cambodia and Thailand, Prime Minister Hun Sen said yesterday.The renovated Koh Kong province highway, including four new concrete bridges, was constructed with a Thai grant. The road was declared officially open yesterday, with Thai and Cambodian VIPs attending yesterday’s inauguration. At the ceremony Hun Sen said the road and the new bridges were a major achievement for both him and the Cambodian government. Cambodian Public Works Minister Sun Chanthol said that National Highway 48 forms part of a national plan to improve cooperation and transport infrastructure between Cambodia and Thailand. As well as easing the movement of goods and spurring industrial investment, the new road would allow Thai tourists to visit the natural attractions of Koh Kong province, he added.Thai Deputy Prime Minister Pong Chay Vong Savat said Highway 48 would be a useful link to and from major Thai economic zones bordering Cambodia. The road will drive the development of the Sihanoukville port, Cambodia’s southern coastal area and zones bordering Vietnam, he predicted. Economic experts said the increase in road infrastructure heralds the expansion of Special Economic Zones. Hun Sen urged the development of the industrial zone in Koh Kong, confirming that Koh Kong will be the “biggest economic zone” based on electricity generation and irrigation projects. “It is Cambodian and Thai policy to seek means to make the border area become a friendly, peaceful and cooperative project,” the premier said, calling the development the start of “a new era.” “In the past, residents living along the borders were poor and scared,” he added. “Now the people who live on the border between Cambodia and Thailand, Vietnam and Laos can stop being poor and scared and get rich instead.”
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