As 2023 draws to a close, B2B Cambodia reviews the advancements made by the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) in cross-border Quick Response (QR) payment agreements. Cambodia has expanded its QR code payment system to include Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, and China’s UnionPay International and Alipay, while discussions are ongoing with other ASEAN countries.
Here is an overview of the ‘Bakong’ QR payment system’s key developments and efforts towards further regional cooperation.
Cambodia Launches Cross-Border QR Payment With Chinese UnionPay
On December 22, 2023, NBC and UnionPay International (UPI) officially launched cross-border QR code payments in a ceremony attended by H.E. Dr. Chea Serey, Governor of NBC, H.E. Wang Wentian, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Cambodia, and other key members from banking and financial institutions.
Through this collaboration, tourists with UnionPay cards can use their UnionPay-enabled wallets and application, as well as other commercial bank applications enabled for UnionPay QR Code payments, to scan KHQR codes and complete transactions at approximately 1.8 million merchants in Cambodia.
In early 2024, it is expected that Cambodian citizens will also be able to use their KHQR to pay for goods and services by scanning UnionPay’s QR code in China and across the globe using the Bakong application or other relevant mobile banking applications.
Cai Jianbo, President of China’s UnionPay and Chairman of UnionPay International, stated that this joint effort aims to cater to travellers from China and other global markets, contributing to the resurgence of international travel and fostering economic development in Cambodia. Jianbo also mentioned that the expansion into Cambodia aligns with the People’s Bank of China’s effort to integrate QR code interoperability across ASEAN countries.
Cambodia-Vietnam Cross-Border QR Code Payment
Cambodia and Vietnam officially launched a bilateral cross-border QR payment link on December 3, 2023, enabling citizens of both countries to conveniently pay in each other’s local currencies. The launch ceremony held in Cambodia’s Siem Reap province was chaired by Governor Nguyen Thi Hong of the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) and the governor of the NBC.
According to a press release issued by the NBC, the new system aims to simplify cross-border payments and make them more safe, convenient, secure, and affordable. This is expected to benefit tourists and merchants in both countries.
As reported by the Saigon Times, customers from 57 Cambodian banks can now make payments in Vietnam in the riel currency at locations authorised by the Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV) and TPBank through the use of a QR code. Vietnamese visitors to Cambodia can, in turn, use Vietnamese mobile banking applications – such as from BIDV, Sacombank, and TPBank – to scan KHQR codes at 1.8 million authorised payment points across the country.
The National Payment Corporation of Vietnam (NAPAS) and ACLEDA Bank of Cambodia spearheaded the project after a successful trial run. NAPAS, with its growing presence in Thailand and Cambodia, has plans to expand its services to Laos in the near future.
Cambodia-Thailand Cross-Border QR Code Payment
As we reported in June, 2023, following a bilateral meeting between the NBC and the Bank of Thailand, a second phase cross-border transaction system was established between Cambodia and Thailand. This system allows Thai tourists visiting Cambodia and vice versa to use a QR code for making payments at local shops, without the need for currency exchange between Thai baht and Cambodian riel.
Mobile applications from Cambodian banks such as Sathapana, ACLEDA, Hatha, Foreign Trade Bank of Cambodia (FTB), Cambodia Post Bank, and ABA Bank allow users to scan QR codes and make payments for transactions in Thailand through the Thai QR/Prompt Pay system.
Participating banks in Thailand include Bangkok Bank, Bank of Ayudhya, Kasikornbank (KBank), Krungthai Bank, and Siam Commercial Bank (SCB).
Cambodia-Laos Cross-Border QR Code Payment
In August 2023, Cambodia and Laos officially launched the first phase of its cross-border QR code payment between the two neighbouring countries, which enables Cambodians to use riel for QR code payments when shopping in Laos.
The second phase of development is ongoing and will allow Laotian mobile banking users to make payments in the official national currency of Laos – the KIP or LAK – by scanning KHQR with LAOQR when visiting Cambodia. Five out of the eight commercial banks in Laos, including ACLEDA Bank Lao Ltd, will participate in cross-border payment connectivity facilitated by LAPNet Company and ACLEDA Bank of Cambodia.
The KHQR scan LAOQR system will be available at eight commercial banks in Laos, including BCEL, ACLEDA Bank Lao Ltd, Kbank Lao, BIC, APB, LVB, Indochina, and JDB. Cambodian tourists travelling to Laos can make payments for goods and services by scanning the QR code at shops displaying the logo of one of these participating banks.
Recent Developments In Cambodia’s QR Payment Systems
As we reported in November 2023, during the fintech festival in Singapore, the NBC signed a partnership agreement with Ant International to promote efficient and secure cross-border mobile payments via QR code. Under this partnership, users of Alipay+ payment partners can use their home e-wallets to pay at any KHQR merchant in Cambodia without the need for currency exchange.
This initiative, like the Financial Transparency Corridor (FTC) between the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the NBC, will help facilitate trade and financial services between the two countries in the future.
Additionally, during the CamTech Summit 2023, Singaporean financial service provider, Liquid Pay, also initiated talks with Cambodian banks such as ABA and ACLEDA, for a partnership to offer QR payment solutions and expand the Bakong QR system overseas.
During Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Manet’s recent visit to Japan for the ASEAN-Japan Summit, Cambodia and Japan signed a memorandum of cooperation to facilitate the interoperation of the two countries’ QR code payment systems and potentially launch the services by April 2025, coinciding with the start of the 2025 Osaka-Kansai Expo.
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