expat returning to work in Cambodia after a few months' absence rolled up to the
Poipet border last week, confident of getting a one-month employment visa in exchange
for US$25, as he had many times before. A well-spoken young man outside the Visa
window introduced himself as "here to help you with your visa" and handed
him an application form. Expat fills in the form, and for "Purpose of visit"
writes "Business." The man says if you want a business visa you must have
these papers as well as your passport, and points to the sign: "Applicationfor
a business visa requires supporting documents: 1. Foreigner employment card; 2. Foreigner
work permit; 3. Application form for business." Panic-stricken expat contemplates
the long road back to Bangkok and waves his passport, with all its work permits:
"Come on, I've never been asked for those papers before. See what you can do."
Young man disappears inside the Visa office with passport and $25, and after a long
10 minutes re-emerges with passport complete with employment visa stamp. But is this
a harbinger of things to come?
** If you're short of the readies for a flight to Bangkok, four bus companies in
Phnom Penh leave early each morning for Poipet at around $5 for the six-or-seven-hour
trip. Once through the border 10 baht will get you a public taxi to Aranyaprathet,
and 200 baht for a five-hour bus trip to Mo Chit in Bangkok. But it's not so easy
coming the other way. The four companies run 11 buses each morning from Poipet to
Phnom Penh for $5 a person, but the last one leaves at 8 a.m. After that you're at
the mercy of three notionally competing "transport associations" set up
under the aegis of the Ministry of Tourism - Tourism Department of Banteay Meanchey
Province." These are the compulsory intermediaries at the bus station between
you and the share taxis which are the only way out of town to Phnom Penh after 8
a.m., or at any hour to Siem Reap. The prices per person are $10 to Siem Reap, $4
to Sisophon, $8 to Battambang, and $15 to Phnom Penh. The taxis, marshaled by the
local police and almost all without license plates and the driver on the right, get
about two-thirds of the fare, with the rest going to the "association."