Sleepy Town On VN Border May Be 'New Poipet'
By Kay Kimsongthe
The Cambodia Daily
Koh Thom district, Kandal province - A new casino, a new road, new
electricity service and, soon, a new bridge are all promising to
transform the sleepy Chrey Thom border checkpoint into what some
villagers and investors are saying could be a new Poipet along the
Land values began soaring two years ago as workers started paving Route
21, which runs 70 km from the Vietnam border here to Takhmau district.
Whereas some villagers couldn't give their land away just a few years
ago, a 50 meters by 100 meters piece of land in Chrey Thom now costs
between $100,000 and $220,000. "It is unbelievable. Land is now very
expensive," said Luy Eang, a 45-year-old former soldier who has
operated the ferry between Chrey Thom and Vietnam for the last decade.
"My boss once tried to give me a piece of land, but I didn't take
it because I thought it was so worthless."
Engineers recently came to Chrey Thom to scout locations for the
bridge, which will span the Bak Dai River near where it joins the Tonle
Bassac, linking Chrey Thom with Vietnam's An Giang province.
The bridge will make trade between Vietnam and Phnom Penh as easy as a
two-hour car ride along Route 21.
The increased trade that the new bridge should bring to the area has
villagers like Luy Eang feeling confident about their financial future
even though, in Luy Eang's case, the bridge will likely kill his
"I'm not worried," he said. "Now I think this will be like a
second Poipet, especially if they make the border an international
Comparisons to Poipet start with the smuggling that has been going on
here for years-teenage boys laughed last week as they casually pushed
a teeming cart, full of petroleum containers, up from the bank of the
But the Poipet talk really gets moving when it turns to the new Golden
Crown casino, which recently opened its doors just meters away from the
Cambodian customs checkpoint.
Card dealers and other casino workers inside the air-conditioned casino
talk of their training at Golden Crown's sister casino in Poipet and
say that the new electricity service from Vietnam will boost
development in the area. "Five years ago, this was just a quiet
place," said Tith Thai, chief of security guards at Golden Crown.
A second, much larger casino is under construction on land with a view
on one side of the Tonle Bassac and, on another, of Vietnam and the Bak
Dai. The 100 hectare site, formerly the headquarters of the checkpoint
police, will hold a six-story, $50 million dollar resort hotel and
casino run by a Singaporean company.
A golf course is due to be built by the same company on the opposite
side of the Tonle Bassac, where rice fields now stand, according to the
construction manager, who declined to give his name. Vietnamese
businessmen, according to the manager, will be the new Holiday
Casino's biggest customers.
"Once the bridge is linked, the gamblers will come," he said. For
now, all that cross over are three electricity wires, at least two
ferry boats and untold numbers of private smugglers.
On the Vietnamese side, dozens of TV antennas poke up over tin and wood
shacks. A large, bright-yellow painted market, with the red and yellow
flag of Vietnam flying overhead, looks busy at midday with Cambodian
and Vietnamese traders shuffling in and out.
Whether the bridge, the improved road and the new casinos will bring
jobs for local villagers, or just land conflicts and drug problems, as
they have for many in Poipet, remains to be seen.
So Den, an NGO worker in Koh Thom, said development along the border
isn't necessarily good news. He thinks human trafficking and drug
smuggling will only increase.
"Our police at the border are not strict," he said. "In my
village, we are already dealing with youth using yama."
Several Cambodian businessmen are buying up land in the area, placing
their own bet on development in the area. Phu Kok An, who operates the
Golden Crown casino, said his company is planning to build a zoo, an
agro-industrial zone and a taxi park.
And Men Sarun Import-Export Co is working with a Vietnamese counterpart
to possibly build a fish-processing factory in Chrey Thom, according to
Mey Dararith, a marketing manager for the company.
But agriculture tycoon Mong Reththy is sitting this one out, saying he
doesn't believe the "new Poipet" hype. "The area doesn't
interest me," he said earlier this week. (Additional reporting by
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Vietnam-Cambodia border gate upgraded to national level
The Khanh Binh-Chray Thum border gates, which lie in the border line
between southern An Giang province of Vietnam and Kandal province of
Cambodia, has been upgraded to national border gates of both countries.
A ceremony to announce this decision was held in Korthom distric,
Kandal province on December 20 in the presence of representatives from
the governments of Cambodia and Vietnam, and local people.
The Khanh Binh border gate area covers 74, 12 sq. km. Over the past
five years, import-export turnover via the gate reached US $77 million.
In anticipation of the upgrade, the authorities of An Giang province
have launched a project to build the Khanh Binh border gate economic
zone, which comprise an industrial, commercial and service complex and
The province plans to advise the government to build a bridge linking
An Giang and Kandal provinces, facilitating smooth travel from An Giang
to Phnom Penh.
On this occasion, Cambodia presented three former leaders of An Giang
province with friendship medals. (VNA)
"Chray Thum" aka Chrey Thom is the border gate just to the north of
Chau Doc on the Bassac River. An old map of this area is on
Some other current links about the place are on