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Laos, Cambodia eye a single-visa policy

Laos, Cambodia eye a single-visa policy

market luang prabang
Foreign tourists shop at an evening market in Luang Prabang, Laos. AFP

Laos is considering a single-visa scheme with its neighbours Thailand and Cambodia to promote balanced development in the subregion, officials said.

The Lao government will hold talks with Cambodia, possibly at the end of this month, to learn from Phnom Penh’s experience in this matter, a senior official at the consular department in Vientiane told the Vientiane Times last Sunday.

“Cambodia has responded to our request for a study visit. We are keen to know if the visa fee is shared and, if it is, how this is done,” he said.

Minister of Tourism Thong Khon told the Post yesterday that a Laos-Thailand-Cambodia single visa was discussed during the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Co-operation Strategy (ACMECS) meeting last month in Laos.

However, he said he wasn’t aware of the planned study visit. “I hope that Laos will join us to discuss this issue as soon as possible,” he said. “We are also looking forward to co-operate with other countries, as the single-visa scheme will help to ease travel for tourists.”

Manoxay Vilayhane, second secretary at the Lao Embassy in Cambodia, said yesterday that he had not yet received further information on the visit.

“But the plan for a single entry-visa with Cambodia and Thailand was an outcome of the ACMECS meeting last month. However, it will take time to implement this,” Vilayhane said.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong would not answer the Post’s questions when reached by phone Wednesday and Thursday.

After Laos expressed interest in the single-visa scheme, Ho Vandy, co-chair of the government-private sector working group on tourism, said he sees advantages for the Kingdom.

“This would certainly ease the visa process for travellers and bring more tourists to Cambodia as well,” he told the Post yesterday.

According to Nick Ray, adviser for travel company Hanuman, Laos and Cambodia sell as a good combination. “I think it is much more beneficial for the Kingdom to have a Cambodia-Laos single visa, because many travellers combine those two countries,” he said.

In Laos, Liber Libuapao, chief of the National Economic Research Institute, told the Vientiane Times that the country will reap benefits from the policy but cautioned that clear regulations are needed on the fee-sharing process to ensure that Laos is not put at a disadvantage.

Tourists consider Laos a secondary destination and they tend to apply for a visa to enter the first country they plan to visit, and then travel to Laos, Liber said.

The ACMECS has promoted a single-visa policy among its members – Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam – since 2003, and hopes it will be realised in December 2015, when Southeast Asia is set to become a single economic community.

So far, only Thailand and Cambodia have launched the single-entry visa in December last year. It is available at Thai and Cambodian embassies.

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