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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Single-visa initiative puts Myanmar flights on course

Single-visa initiative puts Myanmar flights on course

Myanmar's Ministry of Tourism is pushing forward with the implementation of a “two countries, one destination” campaign that hinges on establishing direct flights between the historic cities of Bagan and Siem Reap.

The campaign’s single-visa programme would allow tourists holding either a Myanmar or Cambodia visa to travel directly between the two countries without the need for applying for separate visas at their respective embassies, according to a report yesterday in the Myanmar Times.

While tourists could visit both countries with a single visa, Daw Khin Than Win, deputy director general of Myanmar’s Ministry of Tourism, said that linking the two cities was a top priority before an agreement could be finalised.

Despite the visa programme not yet having a time line for implementation, it would in practice provide “free visas” for those taking direct flights, she said.

However, she noted that the programme was still in its infancy and hinged on cabinet approval before being sent to Cambodian officials for a bilateral agreement, as well as finalising negotiations with Myanmar’s Immigration Department, which has raised concerns over national security.

“It will not affect everyone if they have agreed to a visa on arrival for those who come by charter flights, cruise ships and group tours,” she said in the report.

U Htay Hlaing, director-general of Myanmar’s Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, was quoted as saying that the two ministries had to find a balance between increasing tourist arrivals and ensuring the country’s security. Until then, it would “be impossible to allow” a single visa exemption, he said.

Currently there are no direct flights between Bagan and Siem Reap, the gateway to Angkor Wat.

Myanmar Airlines International previously operated direct flights between Yangon and Phnom Penh. Emirates Airlines plans to link the two capitals with a daily flight starting July 1 as part of a route that connects Dubai and Southeast Asia.

Ho Vandy, secretary-general of the Cambodia National Tourism Alliance, said that any forward momentum to what he claimed was a three-year-old memorandum of understanding between the two countries was welcomed as the region tries to integrate.

“A single-visa agreement could create a way to bring direct flights between Siem Reap and Bagan,” he said. “However, it would be better if direct flights allowed tourists to travel from Yangon to Siem Reap with a single visa.”

In June of 2015, Cambodia and Thailand launched a joint campaign aimed at luring more tourists to visit both countries through a single-visa programme.

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