Buy Khmer

Border dispute is prompting some Cambodians to rethink their consumer preferences

By Chan Boramey, Economics Today

When tensions broke out between Cambodia and Thailand over ancient temples along the border, food and drink shop keeper Ros Vo never expected it would be a boon for Cambodian-made products.

“I’m really surprised how many of my customers ask for Mee Yeung instant noodles,” Ros Vo told Eco-nomics Today. Mee Yeung noodles are produced by Men Sarun Company at the first wholly Cambodian-owned noodle factory to operate in the country. The company began producing packaged noodles late in June in Kandal province.

Patrons of Ros Vo’s shop have been requesting Mee Veung instant noodles by name after the naming of Preah Vihear Temple as an UNESCO World Heritage site triggered conflict between the two countries.

Prior to the conflict, she says her customers tended to prefer Thai products because they said were convinced they were of better quality than Khmer products.

Representatives from Men Sarun Company, which produces Mee Yeung noodles, were contacted but said they were too busy to comment about the rising popularity of their noodles.

Phnom Penh university student Chan Thida told Economics Today she feels it is patriotic to support made-in-Cambodia products such as Mee Yeung noodles, which translates in English as “Our Noodle.” She said in addition to instant noodles, given the choice she would purchase other Cambodian products such as fruit, fruit juice and clothing, among other items.

The border dispute has prompted some in Cambodia to actively encourage other Khmer people to make a conscious effort to choose Cambodian-made products and to boycott consumer items made in Thailand. Activists have been circulating mass emails and mobile phone text messages in an effort to persuade Cambodians to change their consumer habits.

High school student Sokunthy is among those who have been convinced. She said she was so disappointed in how Thailand responded to the conflict over the temple, she has stopped using Thai products and, whenever possible, is using products made in Cambodia instead.

“I got many phone messages encouraging me to support Khmer products and I forwarded them to many of my friends,” she told Economics Today.

A typical message reads: “Being Cambodia we must stop using all kinds of Thai products and support our products. It starts with you, to-day! Please forward this to others if you are truly a Khmer nation.”

Chrin Phok, ITC lecture, has also been inspired to support Khmer products and especially clothing

made in Cambodia. He said he also received and forwarded onto friends email and SMS messages asking him to “Stop using Thai products”

Public unease over the border dispute in Cambodia prompted the cancellation of two produce fairs that were scheduled to be held this month in Phnom Penh. Logan growers in northern Thailand had planned to sell more than 10 tons of their fruit at two shopping malls. More than 200 Thai producers also were to have displayed their products at an exhibition that is usually held each year at this time.

Cambodian Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh reportedly told the Chinese news agency Xinhua on Aug. 3 that he approved of Thai-land’s decision to cancel the fairs. “It could make turmoil,” he said, according to Xinhua, adding that the recent military standoff at the border has made Cambodians reluctant to buy Thai products.

But Jiranun Wongmonkol, director-consultant of Thai commerce for the Thai embassy in Cambodia, told Raksmey Kampuchea that trade between the two countries is still flowing. The calls by some in Cambodia to boycott Thai products have had little impact, she claimed.

According to the Cambodian Commerce Ministry, trade between Cambodia and Thailand totaled US$1.4 billion in 2007, which was a 10.56 percent increase over 2006.


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