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Joint visa for Thailand and Cambodia in limbo

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Tourists visiting Angkor Wat in Siem Reap province earlier this year. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

Despite the fact that the Chairman’s Statement of the recently wrapped 21st ASEAN Summit welcomed progress on regional “connectivity”, a long-awaited joint visa for Thailand and Cambodia remains stalled.

Koy Kuong, spokesman at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday that there is still no progress on a plan to implement the Ayeyarwady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy single visa.

“It is not true,” said Kuong when asked whether the agreement had been inked yesterday – the day Thai media previously reported to be the signing date.

A single visa scheme for Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar has been in the works since 2004, though Cambodia and Thailand are the first two countries expected to pilot the arrangement in the hopes of boosting tourism.

“We attached great importance to the expeditious achievement of enhanced connectivity through improved infrastructure development (physical connectivity), effective institutional arrangement (institutional connectivity) and empowered people (people to people connectivity),” reads the Chairman’s Statement.

Tourism Minister Thong Khon said yesterday that while Cambodia and Thailand have not yet finalised the additional operational arrangements, Cambodia is ready to move toward.

“I don’t know about the date set for implementing a single visa, but for Cambodia, we are ready and still waiting for Thailand,” said Khon.

In an article published by the Bangkok Post in early November, police Lieutenant General Panu Kerdlappol, Thailand’s immigration bureau chief, confirmed the plan would be implemented by November 21.

A single visa for travel between Thailand and Cambodia was part of an agreement signed in 2007.

Khon said the single visa between the two nations will help to boost the tourism sector, which is one of the main revenue generators for Cambodia.

Only citizens of countries outside the ASEAN region would be eligible for the visa scheme.

In the first nine months this year, Cambodia received 2.57 million tourists and is expected to reach 3.4 million tourists by January, according to Khon.

Vietnam sent the most tourists, followed by  South Korea, China, US, Japan, Thailand, Laos and the UK, Khon added.

To contact the reporter on this story: Vong Sokheng at sokheng.vong@phnompenhpost.com

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