10/26/2016, 16.15
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Mourning attire following King Bhumibol’s death a great opportunity for Cambodia’s garment industry

As the sovereign’s death boosts demand for black clothing, cotton supplies in Thailand run out, with traders turning to Cambodia to fill the gap. “Before the king died, there was no one who bought black shirts,” Cambodian trader said. Now Thais are buying up everything.

Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The death of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who passed away on 13 October after 70 years of reign, is providing be an opportunity for Cambodia’s garment industry, this according to some economic analysts.

Two weeks after the monarch’s death and following the announcement of a year-long period of national mourning, Thai authorities fear that the late monarch’s subjects will rush to buy black or dark clothing, leading to domestic shortages and higher prices.

Whilst some Thais are taking their own clothes to street-side dyers to avoid price-gouging, others are looking across the border, in Cambodia, for mourning wear.

“Thai traders are buying them up to sell in Thai markets, in streets and even in the supermarkets,” said trader Roeun Phanna, who has been acting as a broker between buyers and suppliers and selling about 1,000 shirts per day.

Cambodian traders have been slow to realise the opportunity. In fact, “There was no reaction in Cambodia for a week or week and a half . . .  If we knew immediately that they needed black shirts to that level, we could have sold double the current amount,” Phanna explained.

One of the firms Phanna deals with is KB-Cambodia, which employs 30 people. Its owner, Vichara Kosal, after the king’s death, received orders for 70,000 black T-shirts, which are sold for US$ 2.10 each.

“Cotton is running out of stock in Thailand and there are many millions of Thais, so the demand is very high,” she explained.

“The buyers are in Poipet; they buy it and sell it in Thailand. After there were many orders, we distributed some to other places [for sewing]. Whatever I have, they will take it all,” she added.

Cambodian traders near the border are also doing a roaring trade.

“There are many Thais who come to buy black shirts.,” said Rong Klue clothing vendor Sin Sameng. “For normal people, they buy 10 to 30, but for those who buy to resell, they asked for ‘whatever amount you have’. Before the king died, there was no one who bought black shirts.”

For Ny Ky, a representative of cart workers, “[Usually] Thais do not really like black colours, they like colourful clothes. But now, because most people love and respect the king, they wear black clothes to mourn.”

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