Cambodia is an ideal country for Thai investors, according to Supachai Verapuchong, chief executive of the Thai Nakorn Patana company. “If you can’t succeed in doing business in Cambodia, you’ll most likely fail in other countries because the Cambodian market is so similar to Thailand’s,” he said. “Thais and Cambodians have a similar mindset and similar cultures and the same faith in Theravada Buddhism. Investors are often Teochew Chinese immigrants who have the same origin and thinking as Thai-Chinese entrepreneurs.”
Mr Supachai was speaking to Thai investors at a seminar on business opportunities, on August 22 in Phnom Penh. Investing in Cambodia since 1991, his company now owns and manages several businesses in Cambodia, among them the Sofitel Phokeethra in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, drinking water factories and pharmaceutical companies. He also owns businesses in Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar.
To invest in Cambodia, Mr Supachai said, Thai investors need to change the perception that Cambodians dislike Thais. “Cambodians are fond of Thai people and have a lot of trust in Thai products,” he said. “They believe our products are better than those of India, China or Vietnam.”
Despite the advantages, Thai investors often have second thoughts about investing in Cambodia, now one of the fastest growing economies in the world. The burning of the Thai embassy and Thai-owned businesses in 2003 has had a long-term impact. The Preah Vihear temple dispute and skirmishes along the border have compounded the negative image of Cambodia among Thai investors.
The situation has improved in recent years, with several highlevel state visits between the two governments. In July, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Sihasak Phuangketkeow visited Cambodia to discuss the development of a rail link between Aranyaprathet in Sa Kaeo province and Poipet in Cambodia. The military government has raised the idea of creating special economic zones in Trat and Sa Kaeo provinces to connect with special economic zones in Poipet and Koh Kong.