They share a lot in their history. Cambodia and Laos were once part of French Indochina, they both had a tragic destiny during the Vietnam War and they both rebuilt their society and economies in the 1980s by following a Soviet model. They then liberalized in parallel their economies in the 1990s and became both members of ASEAN at the end of 1999.
However, it seems however that these common elements did not so far translated so well in daily life. Following a meeting earlier this week in Phnom Penh between Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Lao counterpart Thongloung Sisoulith- freshly promoted to this function-, both governments acknowledged that it was time to move forwards at more rapid pace. Talks were conducted involving trade, investments, common infrastructure and tourism.
One of the conclusion is to open more border checkpoints between both countries to increase not only bilateral trade but also tourism. So far, there is only one official land checkpoint along the 40-km long border between Cambodia and Lao PDR: Voeung Kam-Dom Kralor checkpoint between Cambodia’s province of Stung Treng and Laos province of Pakse.
A Cambodia’s Foreign Ministry statement released earlier in June indicated that one new checkpoint has been approved to be built in Preah Vihear province. The checkpoint’s construction is part of a larger plan to link the two countries with a road and bridge over the Ropov River, making it easy to cross between Preah Vihear and Laos’ Pakse province.
Two consulates are due to open in July in Stung Treng for Lao PDR and in Pakse for the Kingdom of Cambodia.
The future checkpoint will then link two of the most beautiful Angkorian archaeological sites: Preah Vihear temple in Cambodia and Vat Phou in Champassak Province in Lao PDR. Both temples are listed on UNESCO World Heritage List. Vat Phou was inscribed in 2001 while Preah Vihear is on the list since 2008. Both temples will show another long-standing common history of a Khmer empire which used to stretch all over the Mekong area some 800 years ago, covering Cambodia, Southern Laos and parts of Northeastern Thailand.
What seems to be exciting news for history-loving travellers will however be restricted only to locals. According to an adviser of Cambodia’s Prime Minister, the new checkpoint is likely to be only opened to residents of both countries. But this could rapidly change.