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Border changes amid alleged gas smuggling

Border changes amid alleged gas smuggling

About a dozen Cambodians protested a Thai crackdown at a border checkpoint near Poipet on Saturday, causing a roadblock and prompting Cambodian authorities to negotiate with their Thai counterparts to postpone planned new restrictions on travel until after the Cambodian elections.  

Under new regulations demanded by Thailand, Cambodian drivers would need to show border authorities passports and visas obtained in advance to cross though the Klong Luek checkpoint in Aranyaprathet, Thailand, said Heng You Leng, acting director of Cambodia’s Cambodian-Thai Border Relations Office.

Cambodian authorities have persuaded the Thai side to continue allowing drivers to pass with border permits, which can be obtained on arrival, until Cambodia can process the new documents required for drivers, You Leng said.

The tightening of controls was provoked by Thai authorities’ suspicion that two Cambodian men had been smuggling liquefied petroleum gas across the border, said Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong.

“They suspect them of smuggling gas, and they don’t want to see one vehicle entering Thailand several times in a day to fill up gas,” he said.

Thailand wanted the restrictions “because they want to make sure that owners of personal vehicles have proper legal documents such as licences,” he added.

But for now, he said, border crossing into Thailand remains the same as before.

One of the drivers protesting the tightened regulations on Saturday, who asked not to be named, said Thai authorities recently had begun requiring that vehicles obtain a new border pass each day. They had previously allowed drivers to re-use border passes for multiple days, he said.  

Cambodian and Thai border officials will meet again after the Cambodian elections to negotiate the issue further.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong is scheduled to meet his Thai counterpart, Surapong Tovichakchaikul, on June 11 in Phnom Penh to discuss issues related to Cambodia-Thai border cooperation.

Additional reporting by Cheang Sokha

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