PHNOM PENH (Cambodia Herald) - Ha Tien, the town where Prime Minister Hun Sen and Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Tan Dung are co-chairing an investment conference Sunday, is at the western edge of a new economic zone in Vietnam bordering Kandal, Takeo and Kampot provinces.
Announced by Dung in December, the zone comprises Can Tho, the biggest Vietnamese city in the Mekong Delta, and the provinces of An Giang, Ca Mau and Kien Giang where Ha Tien is located on the Gulf of Thailand across the bay from Kep.
Under the prime minister's decision, the zone would grow 25 percent faster than the rest of the Vietnamese economy over the next 10 years. The area is also targeted to account for 40 percent of Vietnam's gross domestic product (GDP) by 2020.
The Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reported in December that the zone would focus on industry and services. Industrial and construction activities are targeted to rise from 29 percent of economic output in 2010 to 40 percent in 2020 while the services sector is expected to increase from 42 percent to 45 percent in the same period.
The ratio of trained workers is meanwhile targeted to jump from 38 percent of the labor force in 2010 to 65 percent in 2020 with annual income rising from $1,200 per capita to a targeted $3,000, the report said.
VNA said the zone would focus on developing three thermal power plants with a capacity of up to 9,400 megawatts, fueled by gas from fields off the southwest coast. It said the government was also putting priority on developing transport infrastructure in the zone including Phu Quoc island.
Cambodian officials have said that ferry services between Phu Quoc and Kep are expected to start this year. The island, an increasingly popular tourist destination, is currently accessible by ferry from Ha Tien and Rach Gia, the capital of Kien Giang, and by air from Ho Chi Minh City.
To boost local tourism, Vietnamese border officials have recently authorized Cambodian vehicles to cross the border from Kampot to Ha Tien, which is a 20-minute drive from Kep.
Ha Tien was founded around 1700 by group of Chinese traders led Mo Jiu, known as Mac Cuu in Vietnamese. On March 14, 1978, Ha Tien was the site of a brutal massacre by Pol Pot troops in which 130 civilians were killed. Both Mac Cuu and the massacre are still commemorated in Ha Tien today.