Tighter restrictions at the Poipet border crossing are making it more difficult for both tourists and casual laborers to cross into Thailand.
Tighter restrictions at the Poipet border have stranded tourists and left Cambodian
workers waiting for hours to cross the Thai border.
New signs posted at Thai immigration state that tourists entering Thailand must show
proof they have an airline ticket departing Thailand within 30 days before they can
obtain the 30-day visa exemption stamp available to citizens of most western countries.
Many foreigners complained they were turned back at the border until they could buy
airline tickets. Some said they purchased tickets at a travel agent near the border
and then crossed.
Chaturont Chaiyakam, first secretary of the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh, said the
restriction has been in place for many years, but only recently has been enforced,
particularly at land crossings. He said people were abusing the 30-day visa scheme
that Thailand put in place for the purpose of tourism.
"Many entered and worked illegally in Thailand," Chaiyakam said. He said
they used "the so-called 'visa run' to renew their stay indefinitely by crossing
into Thailand's neighboring countries and returning, thereby extending their stay
for another 30 days."
Another rule added October 1, 2006 to discourage illegal foreign workers restricted
tourists to a maximum stay of 90 days within a six month period, he said. Tourists
from countries that are not required to get a visa can still apply for one before
entering Thailand to avoid border problems.
"Bona fide tourists should not encounter any difficulties when trying to enter
into Thailand either at the airport or at the border check points," Chaiyakam
Chief of Poipet tourist police, Prum Chandy, said the number of tourists crossing
the border has dropped to about 4,000 a week from 6,000 a week at the same time last
Chandy said Thailand has been tightening its borders since the coup last year and
they have been more strict in the past two months.
Darret Chun, a guide with Angkor Amazing Holiday Tours and Transport Association,
said the restrictions are creating all sorts of problems. "Sometimes someone
from my tour is left behind. They forget their ticket or don't know they must buy
one before. If they do not purchase one at the border they cannot cross," he
Tourists at the border crossing on August 30 told the Post they did have difficulties
but in most cases they were being let through with a warning. In the past, people
could buy a pass for ten Thai baht if they wanted to cross the border simply to go
to the Thai market next to the Thai immigration. Recent changes now require tourists
to pass through immigration and Khmer shoppers to present an ID card or in some cases
a Thai border pass.