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Regional single visa launched

121227 07
Tourists gather to watch the sun rise and take pictures at the Angkor Wat temple, in Siem Reap province. Photograph: Reuters

Cambodia and Thailand will launch their single visa today to facilitate a flow in tourists and enable easier travel between the two countries.

Thai newspaper The Nation reported that Thai Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul and Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong had agreed on the visa on Tuesday during the nations’ eighth Joint Commission for Bilateral Co-operation.

The Nation reported that tourists from 35 nations would be able to enter both countries with the single visa.  Koy Kuong, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation could not be reached for comment.

In a pilot project under the Ayeyarwady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Co-operation Strategy single visa scheme, tourists from other countries can apply for entry at either Cambodian or Thai embassies or consulate offices for visiting the two kingdoms.

Tourism Minister Thong Khon said the project would enhance and facilitate tourism between Cambodia and Thailand.

“We will get mutual benefits: no one loses or wins,” he said.  “It will help to ease travel for tourists. If tourists  are close to a Cambodian or Thai embassy or consulate office, they can apply for it.

“Our embassy or consulate just issues them the visa, but they still have to pay the fee at any checkpoints.

“It is good for us, because in some countries we don’t have enough consulate offices.

“If the pilot project [is successful], we will continue [this] with Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.”

Ang Kim Eang, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, welcomed the project.

“It is pretty good, because the tourists can enjoy their visit in the two countries,” Eang said.

“Furthermore, this scheme will help to boost the number of tourists visiting our country.”

For many years, Thailand was the main tourism hub for Cambodia, but  relations between the two countries have been strained since 2008, when violence first broke out between troops stationed along the border.

The situation has improved since Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra came to power last year.

Thong Khon said the number of tourists arriving via Thailand was on the rise.

“Now, the number of tourists from Thailand accounts for 35 per cent, which is the same as from Vietnam.

“I hope that when the project is successful, we will get more,” he said.

Figures from the Ministry of Tourism show tourists from Thailand ranked fifth in number over the first 10 months, reaching 160,028 arrivals. This represents a rise of 90.1 per cent compared to the same period last year.

Earlier this month, Thailand and Cambodia announced that a Thai state-owned transport company would commence services from Siem Reap and Phnom Penh to Bangkok via Poipet on December 29.

To contact the reporter on this story: May Kunmakara at kunmakara.may@phnompenhpost.com

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