Thailand has confirmed it will waive visa fees for Cambodian workers who travel home for Khmer New Year, a press release issued by the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok states.
The embassy said Cambodian workers would be exempt from paying re-entry fees when they returned to Thailand after the holiday.
“The free re-entry visa is valid from April 5 to April 30. All workers must return to Thailand no later than April 30, 2019,” read the statement dated Friday 22 and obtained by The Post on Sunday.
The move was applauded by Cambodian civil society organisations.
Moeun Tola, executive director of the Centre for Alliance of Labour and Human Rights (Central), told The Post on Sunday that the exemption was initiated by the Thai government and not on Cambodia’s request.
Tola said Khmer New Year, or Songkran in Thailand, is observed by both Thais and Cambodians on April 14-16. He said the re-entry visa fee had long been a major burden for Cambodian workers, who had to pay at least 1,000 Thai baht (around $30) or more each time.
“If we can help with this exemption, it will help reduce workers’ expenses significantly. The government must consider waiving visa fees for coming years,” he said.
Tola urged the authorities of both countries to curb increases in transport fees during the holiday, which he said were already high in Cambodia.
“Cambodian authorities must not charge workers when they cross the border from Thailand, and I want the Cambodian government to monitor this issue to ensure workers can return to their hometown and back to Thailand happily. Cambodia should also request the Thai government to make this exemption available for all types of worker, including fishermen and other labourers,” he added.
A Cambodian worker from Banteay Meanchey province currently working at a factory in Thailand’s Ayutthaya city, told The Post on condition of anonymity on Sunday that he was overjoyed at the news.
He said workers pay much higher service fees in Cambodia than in Thailand, between 100 to 1,000 Thai baht for each entry and exit.
“In Thailand, the expense is low. I’m more worried about high expenses in Cambodia. Even those who help workers get paperwork signed charge us for their service,” he said.
He urged the government to reduce entry and exit fees to the same as in Thailand to help Cambodian workers in the Kingdom's western neighbour.
The Cambodian Embassy in Thailand said in its press release that according to Thai immigration law, re-entry visas cost 1,000 baht for a single entry and around 4,800 baht for multiple entry.
The Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh could not be reached for comment.