November 3, BE 2566 – Sa Kaeo – Siem Reap, Cambodia:   Department of Provincial Administration(DOPA), Ministry of the Interior of Thailand (MoI),is taking the lead in organizing the Mekong Linkage: Connecting Nations, Linking People workshop (Thailand – Cambodia) under the project Enhancing People-to-People Connectivity to Address Non-traditional Security (NTS) Challenges in the Mekong Region. to strengthen relationships between citizens to meet the challenges of the non traditional security (NTS) in the  Mekong. The workshop is held from October 30 to November 3 in Sa Kaeo and Siem Reap provinces, Thailand, and Cambodia, respectively, with participants from both Thailand and Cambodia. The participants include operational-level administrative officials from both Thai and  Cambodian  side, such as Chief Districts Officers and community leaders such as Subdistrict Headmen and Village Headmen and officials from the Ministry of Interior, totaling 90 people.

On the Thai side, the border areas consist of 7 provinces and 13 districts, namely Ubon Ratchathani (Na m Yuen district), Sisaket (Phu Sing district), Surin (Kap Choeng district), Buri Ram (Ban Kruad district), Sa Kaeo (Aranyaprathet, Ta Phraya, and Khlong Hat districts), Chanthaburi (Pong Nam Ron and Soi Dao districts), and Trat (Bo Rai and Khlong Yai districts).

Meanwhile, Cambodia’s border areas comprise 6 provinces and 13 districts, including  Oddar Meanchey  (Allong Veng, Samrong, and Banteay Ampil districts), Banteay Meanchey (O’Chrov, Malai, and Thma Puok, Poi  Pet  districts), Preah Vihear (Jomcrasan), Pailin (Salakrao district), Koh Kong (Mondol Seima district), and Battambong ( Camriang, Pnumpruek,Sampoulun,Samlut district)

The workshop, supported by the 6th Mekong-ROK Cooperation Fund (MKCF) and managed by DOPA and the Mekong Institute (MI), aims to enhance collaboration among district chiefs officers, and community leaders. The objectives include strengthening the roles of local officials and elevating cooperation mechanisms to address emerging security challenges, focusing on issues like human trafficking, drug trafficking and illegal migration by fostering relationships between citizens on the border creatively.

This meeting marks a continuation of success from the practical workshop on cross-border relationships in the Mekong region (Thailand-Laos), held twice before. It includes training to empower local leaders in disaster preparedness and response to become change agents in dealing with the new security paradigm, serving as role models for the communities in preventing and mitigating risks in the border areas. The qualified speakers cover various topics, including SWOT analysis, to analyze strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in the combined border areas. The program also includes field visits to significant historical and tourism sites in Cambodia, allowing participants to foster various relationships in the area for the future.

Afterwards, the leadership delegation of the Thai officers crossed over to Siem Reap, conducting a study on border crossings and cross-border transportation at the permanent border checkpoint of Ban Nong Eian-Stung Bot which is one the most important strategic border check point for cargo transportation for future Thai-Cambodian border trade.

Subsequently, there was also a visit to the promotion of international relations at the provincial  Hall. In this event, Mr. OUM REATREY, the governor of Banteay Meanchey, along with the deputy governor and officials from different sectors in the area, warmly welcomed the Thai delegation. They engaged in discussions and consultations on cooperation in implementing projects to build relationships between the people, especially in coping with new security challenges along border of Thailand and Cambodia.

Following that, the delegation proceeded to the Empress Angkor Resort & Spa to participate in the official opening ceremony of the Enhancing Mekong Linkage : Connecting Nations, Liking People. The event was honored by the presence of  Pol. Lt. Popjanok Jalanugraha, Deputy Director-General of DOPA,MoI who chaired the opening ceremony. Dr. LAY Chanrasmey, Director of Southeast Asia Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Cambodia, also spoke at the event, welcoming the participants as the host, along with Mr. Winai Tochareon, Inspector-General of  DOPA, and the deputy governor of Banteay Meanchey, Oddar Meanchey, Battambong, Koh Kong, Pailin, and Preah  Vihear.

Following this, there was a discussion on “Thai-Cambodian Relations and Strengthening Relations between People in the Border Area and the Development of Border Trade and Economic Development.” Speakers included representatives from Thailand and Cambodia, namely Ms.Ek-on Kunacharoen,Minister, Royal Thai Embassy, Phnom Penh, Dr. LAY Chanrasmey, and Mr. Chhoeung Chhiv Earn, President of the Banteay Meanchey Chamber of Commerce and Ms. Kingkarn Kietdamrongwong, the secretary of Sa-Keao Chamber of  Commerce. The panelists agreed that Thailand and Cambodia should cooperate closely in economic and border trade development.

Subsequently, a SWOT analysis was conducted to allow leaders from both sides to consult and discuss possible development directions in the joint area. The analysis covered strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in the region. This SWOT analysis was considered significant, as it was the first time leaders from both sides had the opportunity to sit together and discuss various aspects. Normally, cross-border relationship activities focus on cultural and sports-related matters, with limited opportunities to discuss economic, social, and security issues.

SWOT Analysis of Thai-Cambodian Border Areas

The SWOT analysis of the Thai-Cambodian border regions is divided into pairs of provinces and adjacent districts, grouped into six categories as follows:

Group 1: Nam Yuen,  Ubon Ratchathani Province province ,Phu Sing,  Sisaket Province  – Jomcrasan, Peah  Vihear province, Allong Veng, Oddar Meanchey province

Group 2:  Kap Choeng ,Surin Province ) , Ban Kruat, Buri Ram Province – Samrong, and Banteay Ampil, Oddar Meachey province

Group 3 :  Aranyaprathet , Sa Kaeo Province – O’Chrov, Poi Pet, Malai)   Banteay Meanchey Province

Group 4:  Ta Phraya, Khlong Hat Sa Kaeo Province – Thma Puok , Banteay Meancheym Province ,Sampoulun, Battabong  province.

Group 5:  Pong Nam Ron, Soi Dao  Chanthaburi Province –  Pnumopruek, Camriang, Battabong  Province, Sala Krau, Pailin Province

Group 6:  Bo Rai, Khlong Yai, Trat Province  – Samlut , Battabong Province, Mondol Seima , Koh Kong Province

The results of the analysis reveal that local leaders in the paired regions have good relationships, and the areas share similar cultural traditions. The local residents can communicate using the local language, and there is a market that facilitates the exchange of goods freely. The state has clear policies for jointly developing the economy and trade along the Thai-Cambodian border. Additionally, there is cooperation in humanitarian aspects, such as sending Cambodian patients to receive treatment in Thai hospitals.

Common weaknesses identified in the border areas include the porous nature of the land, allowing illegal entry and creating legal challenges. However, opportunities for joint development have improved with enhanced infrastructure, making travel for residents in the border areas more convenient.

Notably, the analysis highlights differences in legal systems between the two countries as a potential threat. People in the border areas need to better understand and navigate these differences collaboratively.

Based on the SWOT analysis, the direction of “Building Strong Communities between Countries” promoted by the project seems to be a promising approach for better border management. This is especially true for fostering learning about the legal and regulatory context of the neighboring area, avoiding unintentional legal violations, and ensuring mutual understanding.

The strengths and weaknesses identified emphasize the importance of strong local communities for effective border management. The SWOT analysis serves as a foundation for creating a strategic plan to address challenges and capitalize on opportunities, ultimately fostering cooperation and stability in the border regions.


Exploring the Success of “Building Strong Cross-Border Communities”

This meeting highlighted the guidelines for “Building Strong Cross-Border Communities,” with a noteworthy example found in the Ban Laem Border Checkpoint, situated on the Thai-Cambodian border in Chanthaburi province. This exemplar serves as a beacon, demonstrating the effectiveness of the approach in addressing economic development and Non-Traditional Security (NTS) challenges.

The Ban Laem border checkpoint stands as a testament to the success of “Building Strong Cross-Border Communities,” driven by collaboration between the government, private sector, and the public. Dr. Radthawith Tangkiatphachara, President of the Thai-Cambodian Border Trade and Tourism Association, proposed and coordinated the implementation of this concept in the “Pong Nam Ron Model,” where Thai and Cambodian citizens coexist harmoniously.

Invited as a lecturer during the Mekong Linkage workshop, Dr. Radthawith shared insights into the concept of “Building Strong Cross-Border Communities,” using the Ban Laem checkpoint as a model. This approach, when applied, empowers local officers to make a positive difference in their respective areas.

The Ban Laem checkpoint, amidst complex border dynamics, showcases the model’s efficacy, emphasizing economic development and legitimate trade. Even during challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic, the checkpoint’s border trade thrived, reaching nearly 40,000 million THB. This resilience, coupled with the lawful use of foreign labor, ensures a thriving local economy and minimal security issues.

The success of the Ban Laem checkpoint underscores the importance of “Building Strong Cross-Border Communities” as a fundamental principle nationwide. Three key principles drive this success:

Legal Literacy: Both sides of the border must familiarize themselves with laws to prevent unintentional criminal activities.

Leadership Integrity: Leaders should prioritize integrity, humanity, and morality, fostering a peaceful life within the border area.

Impartial Law Enforcement: Strict and unbiased law enforcement ensures decisive action against all crimes, regardless of nationality.

The collaborative relationship between leaders of Pong Nam Ron and Kamrien further strengthens the cooperative framework, as seen in recent engagements during the Mekong Linkage group visit.

Building Strong Cross-Border Communities is a gradual process, as seen in the ten-year journey of the Ban Laem checkpoint. Strong communities deter various threats, fostering collaboration with authorities and ensuring a secure border.

The seminar culminated in a field trip designed to enhance relationships among local leaders from both countries. The delegation visited “Angkor Wat,” a UNESCO World Heritage site and a source of immense pride for Cambodians. Throughout the visit, Thai and Cambodian leaders engaged in the exchange of cultural knowledge. Cambodian leaders took the lead in explaining various aspects of art that reflect different lifestyles within Angkor Wat, instilling a sense of pride among them. These moments served as a pivotal starting point for fostering connections among the people, uniting efforts to address new security challenges in the Mekong region collaboratively.