The Koh Kong Special Economic Zone (SEZ) located just two kilometers from Thailand’s Trat province provides jobs to around 9,000 workers. Thitidej Tongpatana, a Thai national who is vice president of Koh Kong SEZ, recently spoke to Khmer Times’ Chea Vannak on the special economic zone’s prospects and future plans.
KT: How many factories are there in the Koh Kong SEZ, and what were the initial infrastructure problems that you faced?
Mr. Thitidej: First there was one factory in 2006, set up by Cambodian tycoon Ly Yong Phat, to assemble Hyundai vehicles. Then the number of factories steadily increased. Presently we have seven factories which employ more than 9,000 workers.
When we first started, we did have infrastructure problems. There were no mobile phone and internet connections and no banks and ATMs. Now, we have everything and we’re trying our best to attract investors to set up factories and manufacturing plants in the SEZ.
KT: What are the main products manufactured in the SEZ and where are they exported to?
Mr. Thitidej: The products are electronic components for cars, sporting goods and assembled Hyundai vehicles. The electronic components for cars are for Mitsubishi and Toyota companies in Thailand. The assembled Hyundai vehicles are for the Hyundai plant in Thailand. These Japanese and South Korean companies have plants in Thailand and the factories in the Koh Kong SEZ support these plants.
The sporting goods are exported to Thailand, Japan and the United States.
KT: How do you see the current skill set of Cambodian workers meeting the demands made by foreign investors?
Mr. Thitidej: The Cambodian labor force is split into two parts. The first is skilled labor, and these are the ones with vocational skills. The second is unskilled labor.
The good thing is that factories in the SEZ are providing training for unskilled workers.
KT: What are the challenges foreign investors have to deal with…