Authorities in Banteay Meanchey province and their Thai counterparts from Sa Kaeo province are discussing the possibility of reopening the Poipet International Border Checkpoint to allow people to travel during the upcoming Khmer New Year holiday.
Banteay Meanchey Provincial Administration spokesman Sek Sokhom told The Post that at present, the Poipet checkpoint near Sa Kaeo province has been reopened only for the transport of goods, and for some Cambodians who sell in Thai markets.
He added that because Cambodia and Thailand have a similar New Year tradition, both sides were considering reopening the international border at the checkpoint – at the regional level – to allow people living along the border to cross it and enjoy their holiday.
“Cambodia and Thailand celebrate a similar Sangkran on the day of the New Year, so that day we will allow people in and out ... I met with provincial authorities a few days ago – the provinces of Banteay Meanchey and Sa Kaeo have agreed to allow entry and exit, but only for the border areas. Visitors cannot visit Bangkok, for example,” he said.
He said before Covid-19, people living in the two provinces often crossed the border to enjoy the New Year.
“For example, at the O’Bei Choan border checkpoint, there is a temple built by King Jayavarman VII. Our people visit that temple on Thai land during the New Year – and the Thais come to visit the temples in Banteay Meanchey province too,” he said.
Sokhom added that although the governments of the two countries have not yet formally announced the reopening of the border, restrictions on sellers had been relaxed, and they were no longer required to quarantine.
“There used to be a requirement to isolate for Cambodians or Thais who trade across the border, but now a vaccine card suffices. They are still restricted and not allowed to travel beyond the border provinces,” he said.
He added that Banteay Meanchey province formally allowed workers to enter through three checkpoints – O’Bei Choan, Boeng Trakuon and Malai border checkpoints.
Banteay Meanchey deputy provincial governor Ngor Meng Chruon said that Cambodia has opened its borders, but was waiting on the Thais to do the same.
“The Thai side has yet to announce any specific, formal policy that says the boders will be opened,” he said.
Now that the government had given permission to celebrate the New Year, migrant workers were returning in greater numbers, he added.
He said on average, between 150 and 250 workers return home each day. As Khmer New Year approaches, those numbers are growing – up to 400 are entering the province each day.