PM, Bodyguard Chief Step in as Longan Blocked From Thailand, Face Damage

3 min read
Bundles of longan in a market (Wikimedia Commons)

A week after Thailand blocked the exports of Cambodian longan in Battambang due to purported Covid-19 fears, a trader says hundreds of tons of the local fruit are at risk of spoiling.

Protesters gathered at the Doung International Border Checkpoint on August 10 as Thai authorities put a halt to the trade. The Agriculture Ministry said two days later that traders should ship their products to Vietnam instead.

Din Den, a broker who sells “ta ngen,” a variety of longan, to a Chinese company in Thailand, said hundreds of tons of longan were now getting damaged, causing tens of thousands of dollars in losses.

“I want our authorities to speed up negotiations with the Thai authorities to help resolve this matter,” Den said.

Battambang provincial governor Nguon Ratanak said it was a tricky issue to resolve. Thai authorities had closed the border to prevent the spread of Covid-19, but provincial and other relevant authorities would approach Thai officials to facilitate, he said.

“The phrase is ‘compromise has no principles.’ I do not know whether they will accept or not. They are the one who closed — we are not closing — meaning that Thailand does not allow [the product] to enter their country. So we do not know how to solve it. Let’s see.”

China has placed an indefinite ban on Thai longan since Friday after finding imports contaminated with mealybugs, Thailand’s trade promotion department told the Bangkok Post. Longan from Pailin province are expected to be the next fruit promoted for export to China, but according to the Phnom Penh Post, the country already exports some 70 percent of its longan to Thailand for sale to the Chinese market.

A Facebook post by a son-in-law of general Hing Bun Hieng, Nup Nimol, on Tuesday afternoon said the prime minister had now ordered his bodyguard unit chief to buy up the longan from farmers and traders.

Seng Dylin, a member of Bun Hieng’s newly formed working group to buy longan, said the longan would be purchased from Wednesday in Battambang.

“We have just received the recommendation of samdech techo, who assigned a working group to prepare a plan to buy the longan from farmers,” Dylin told VOD.

“Tomorrow the working group will hold a meeting to assign the work. … The working group has already prepared transportation and other things,” he said.

“After we’ve bought it from the farmers — we just buy from them and wait for the next plan,” he added. “We need to solve their problem first because they are suffering damage to their products because they cannot export.”

Provincial authorities would decide the purchase price, he said.

Others say they have faced difficulties exporting to Vietnam as well during the pandemic. Toeng Yin, in Kampot province, said local border gates had been shut since July, and he had been unable to export his shrimp and lobster. But goods still seemed to flow in from the neighboring country, he said.

“If it’s a Covid-19 situation, we have to close both sides,” Yin said.

Kampot provincial governor Cheav Tay could not be reached for comment.

Theng Savoeun, the president of the Coalition of Cambodian Farmers Communities, said Cambodian farmers seemed to be at a disadvantage when it came to negotiations with neighboring countries.

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