On November 28, 2001, I crossed the border from Muang Khong in Laos, to Stung Treng
province in Cambodia.
I was told by the Cambodian immigration officers that due to this land border crossing
not being officially opened for international travelers that I must pay US$23, even
though I had a visa with this border crossing clearly marked on my application. It
was made clear to me that this was not a request, rather, I had to pay this amount
or I would be turned back into Laos.
I believe that many potential travelers are put off by the possibilities of this
kind of corruption and in the end it's only a few individuals that prosper, while
Cambodia as a whole loses valuable tourist dollars. This was my second trip to Cambodia
and I love the people and the country, but I am left wondering about the kind of
messages that are being sent to the rest of the world by travelers who are exposed
to this treatment by a select few individuals.
Sadly, in my own experience, many travelers are tending to avoid Cambodia due to
these stories and the perception that they will be 'ripped off' and exposed to corruption
at every turn. My hope is that this issue can be addressed by the Cambodian government
and that tourist dollars can spread to all Cambodians, not just those who have been
entrusted with privileged positions of power.
- Andrew Graham