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Govt to have free visa rethink soon

T HE on-off saga of free visas for visitors to Cambodia took a new twist when it was revealed that the government is reconsidering the idea and may introduce a "free visa" policy in the next few weeks.

The government announced that it would waive fees on two-week visas from the start of March.

But angry tourists arriving then still found themselves forced to pay $20 for one-month visas.

Tourism Minister Veng Sereyvuth said on March 18 that the delay was only a temporary hiccup, blaming it on the late arrival of computer equipment to process tourist arrivals.

All would be ironed out within six week, said Veng. But six months later tourists are still be charged $20 under the old system.

The latest situation, said Tourism Under Secretary of State Sok Chenda, is that the cabinet will consider the matter again prior to the opening of the newly-refurbished arrivals hall at Pochentong Airport, Phnom Penh, when the computer equipment will finally be up and running.

The loss of revenue to the Ministry of Finance had to weighed against possible gains made by free visas attracting more tourists, said Chenda.

Cash-strapped Cambodia is currently attracting around 15,000 arrivals per month, amounting to $300,000.

He refused to be drawn about the government's earlier announcement that free visas would definitely be brought in.

Chenda added: "Free visas have two meanings - that they are free of charge or easy to get.

"One of the most frequent questions by tourists is how can they get a visa?

"Some people are a little bit scared that when they arrive they won't be able to get one. We want them to know that everything is easy." Cambodia issues visas at Pochentong partly because it does not have diplomatic missions in many countries

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