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Bribes and border woes hinder exhibition team

Bribes and border woes hinder exhibition team

A team of Cambodians bringing products for exhibition to the Worldtech'95 festival

in Thailand said the trip was a nightmare with two days of flooding, soldiers demanding

bribes and problems with the border officials on both sides.

Cambodia was one of 25 countries invited to join the exhibition held by the Royal

Thai government in Nakhon Ratchasima, a northeast province of Thailand. The exhibition

lasts from Nov. 4 to Dec. 16.

The Cambodians from the ministries of Agriculture, Industry, Culture and Tourism,

were carrying handicrafts, Cambodian traditional costumes, varieties of rice, dry

and smoked fish, seafood, bottled sauces, agricultural tools, Angkor Beer and locally

manufactured cigarettes.

"We had many problems along the way from Phnom Penh to the border," said

Mean Bora, who was in charge of Cambodia's exhibit. He said they encountered "very

bad security" who demanded bribes, as well as floods along Route 5.

When they arrived at the border, Cambodian border officers demanded more money and

accused them of trying to export the goods illegally to sell in Thailand.

"We told them the items were for the exhibition, but they still demanded money,"

he said.

After they passed the Cambodian border there were more problems. At the Thai checkpoint,

officials of the military, police and Customs refused to allow them to bring in cigarettes,

beer and wine.

Bora said they showed a letter of permission from the Royal Thai Embassy, to no avail.

"They didn't even allow us to import pictures of the products," he said.

Pak Sokhom, vice chief of the exhibition committee, said the products were transported

by truck on Route 5 because the goods were too heavy to send them by plane. He blamed

the problems on a lack of coordination between Customs and the exhibition committee.

Kanchana Manaspaibool, of the Royal Thai Embassy to Cambodia, said "technical

mistakes" occurred because the Exhibition Team didn't submit its forms to the

Ministry of National Security in Thailand on time.

She said Customs agents refused to let in the beer and cigarettes because they didn't

have authorization from Bangkok.

Bora said despite the transportation headaches, all went well when they arrived at

the exhibition hall. The Cambodian exhibit was housed along with Vietnam and Malaysia

in a brand new exhibition hall, and it attracted many visitors. "Sixty percent

of the Thai people praised us," he said.

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