Battambang-Banteay Meanchey NR5 segment to boost Thai trade

The newly upgraded 84.74km stretch of National Road 5 – from Battambang town north to Banteay Meanchey provincial capital Sisophon – will improve trade, tourism and investment between Cambodia and Thailand, according to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The premier made the comment at the inauguration ceremony of the road segment on January 10.

Now 100 per cent complete and inaugurated, the road will turn former “battlefields” into markets and places of production and tourism, make the lives of locals easier, and spur economic growth, he said.

“Cambodia strives to build infrastructure, especially in border regions, turning war-torn zones into areas of mutual trade.

“Last year, the trade volume between Cambodia and Thailand reached about $10 billion, more than $9 billion with Vietnam, and over $100 million with Laos, figures that are likely to continue to grow,” Hun Sen said.

He said the National Road 5 renovation project is considered to be overall about 90 per cent complete, with the bulk of the remaining work being the removal of landmines and unexploded ordnance.

Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol recounted that the sheer amount of traffic on National Road 5 despite the damaged conditions that hamper travel – in absolute terms and proportionally to other thoroughfares – prompted the government to request funding from Japan to rebuild and upgrade the road.

“National Road 5 has potential, as a link between Battambang and Banteay Meanchey, as well as other border provinces, and especially as a strategic route connecting Phnom Penh to the Poipet border checkpoint on the Cambodia-Thailand frontier, passing through five provinces,” he said.

These five provinces are Kandal, Kampong Chhnang, Pursat, Battambang and Banteay Meanchey.

Chanthol highlighted that National Road 5 forms part of the Asian Highway 1 (AH1) that links Phnom Penh to Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City.

The road is also part of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Southern Economic Corridor project, which aims to boost tourism, trade, investment, logistics, and economic development in ASEAN and China’s Yunnan province and Guangxi region, he noted.

Cambodia Logistics Association (CLA) president Sin Chanthy told The Post that National Road 5 was a vital route for Cambodia-Thailand commerce, and that its recent upgrade would boost trade between the two countries.

He affirmed that merchandise brought in from Thailand accounts for more goods traffic on the road than Cambodian products bound for the neighbouring country.

A sizeable chunk of Cambodian exports transported on the thoroughfare comprise agricultural raw materials such as corn and cassava, while major imports include foods, cosmetics, vehicles and agricultural machinery, he said.

“The transport sector inarguably requires proper infrastructure such as roads, bridges and ports to improve trade links between Cambodia and its neighbours, and boost economic growth,” Chanthy said.

Renovations to the 366km National Road 5 – from the Prek Kdam area just north of the capital in Ponhea Leu district’s Koh Chin commune of Kandal province, to Banteay Meanchey’s Poipet town on the border with Thailand – are divided among three sections and estimated to cost about $500 million.

The priority section, the 84.74km Battambang-Sisophon segment is now complete.

The second – a 135.25km segment from Prek Kdam to Thlea Ma’am village, Boeung Kantuot commune, Krakor district, Pursat province – is 64 per cent finished and is scheduled to be completed by mid-2022.

The third comprises two disjoint segments, Thlea Ma’am-Battambang and Sisophon-Poipet, with a total length of 146km, and is 56 per cent complete. Procedures are underway to select construction companies to work on the Sisophon-Poipet segment.