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Government: Stop charging illegal fees at border

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Cambodian workers cross the border into Thailand at Daung International Checkpoint in Battambang province’s Kamrieng district on April 23, 2016. Heng Chivoan

Government: Stop charging illegal fees at border

The General Department of Immigration has ordered the chief of the Poipet border checkpoint in Banteay Meanchey province to obey instructions after a series of allegations were aired on social media.

The General Department of Immigration posted on its Facebook page on Saturday that it had become aware of allegations on social media platforms and local media outlets of the overcharging of unnecessary processing fees and inaction by checkpoint officials.

Although the allegations have not been substantiated, the Disciplinary Council of the General Department of Immigration summoned the leadership of the Cambodian-Thai checkpoint to take measures to stamp out irregular activity.

“A sign must be clearly visible that people are not required to pay money for the service. The counter service must be improved . . . while passengers must queue up before and after processing to stop individuals offering to speed up services for personal gain."

“Police officials on all border crossings must make it as easy as possible for foreign nationals and Cambodian citizens to cross the border, especially those who work in Thailand and will be returning for Khmer New Year next month."

“They must not take money. They must comply with the regulations and discipline of the National Police, and have a professional attitude and behaviour in their duties, while the administrative punishment of officials who act wrongly must be strengthened,” the department’s post stated.

Kirt Chantharith, the director-general at the General Department of Immigration, told The Post on Monday that along with guidance, he had also assigned the disciplinary council to further review and keep track of activities. If there are still cases of disobedience, a series of measures will be taken, he said.

“If they do not correct their behaviour, we will act using administrative discipline. I cannot speak yet of measures to relieve officials of their posts. At the sight of specific infringements, we will take the necessary steps,” he said.

Sam Chankea, the provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said he applauded the measures but wanted them to be implemented rigorously and permanently.

He said there had been cases where some law enforcement officials only followed the regulations after complaints had been made and then ignored them as before.

“We have seen that following the guidance only lasts for a short time [after complaints] as some officials seem to have not obeyed the law at all."

“If the officials care about their professional duty to serve the nation and the people, they should follow the obligations as prescribed by the law,” Chankea said.

Din Puthy, head of the Cambodian Association for Informal Economy Development, said there had been instances of extortion and of travellers, especially migrant workers, feeling intimidated at other international checkpoints.

“The director-general of the General Department of Immigration should also look at other border checkpoints because Cambodian citizens have had to pay to cross when they don’t need to."

“I have visited after people complained. I have a lot of evidence. We need to help them because some workers have expressed grievances at experiencing extortion,” he said.

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