A new visa agreement is boosting bilateral tourism, but officials say Vietnam needs to start allowing access to more Cambodian buses and trucks
Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Buses from Capitol Tours in Phnom Penh wait at a bus depot. Tour operators hope to be allowed un-restricted access to Vietnam.
CAMBODIA must broker an agreement on cross-border trade and transport that would see more passenger buses and cargo vehicles allowed unrestricted entry into Vietnam, a top government transport official has said.
Current law limits the number of passenger buses and overland cargo vehicles to 40 per day, said So Nguon, co-chair of the Government-Private Sector Forum on Transportation.
He added that no such restrictions have been enacted by the Cambodian government on Vietnamese vehicles.
"We need fair competition and fair treatment," he told the Post Sunday, adding that he wants to see the number of buses and cargo vehicles increased to 150 per day.
Cambodia and Vietnam signed a reciprocal agreement on November 4 to allow citizens of both countries to travel visa-free for 14 days. The agreement went into effect on Friday.
Koy Kuong, an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told the Post shortly after the signing that he expected the visa agreement to boost tourism and trade between the two countries.
So Nguon said the time is right to draft new transport regulations, as the new visa agreement has increased bilateral tourism, putting pressure on passenger transport companies to boost their services.
Chhem Chamnan, manager of the Phnom Penh Soriya Transport Co, said the new visa arrangements have increased business.
But he added that he is still unable to compete with Vietnamese companies, which benefit from far more lenient entry rules.
"I have learned that Vietnamese companies have a much easier time operating in Cambodia, while our companies struggle to get access to Vietnam," Chhem Chamnan said.
Vietnam was the second-largest source of tourists to Cambodia between January and October this year, according to statistics from the Ministry of Tourism.
Some 176,607 Vietnamese travellers entered Cambodia in the first 10 months of this year, up from 102,577 during the same period last year.
So Nguon noted one improvement in cross-border trade relations since the visa-free policy went into effect: A rule that required Cambodian business owners operating in Vietnam to maintain 51 percent ownership by a Vietnamese national has been lifted.
"I just set up an office in Ho Chi Minh City on December 2, and I am allowed to operate as a wholly Cambodian-owned company," he said.
So Nguon said, however, that he did not know how this new regulation would impact on other business sectors.