I’m writing on behalf of a group of foreign residents of Cambodia who have been trying for the past two weeks to organise a charter flight from Bangkok to Phnom Penh. We have made some progress, but things are moving slowly and the clock is ticking as the Thai government appears to move ahead with plans to end its amnesty period for non-permanent residents of Thailand.
What the Thai government does not appear to consider is that many of us who have been stranded here since March are actually legal residents of neighbouring Southeast Asian countries – in our case Cambodia – and have been unable to return via direct travel routes despite our best efforts.
Two weeks ago my colleague and I, both working for a Danish humanitarian organisation, initiated an effort to secure a direct charter flight to Phnom Penh. Direct flights to the city were terminated in April, and we have been in Thailand since then. Having families with young children, we are reluctant to return via South Korea, which appears to be the only viable option. Not only is the trip long and arduous, but we will be put at risk of contracting the coronavirus, being on a connecting flight from Incheon with travellers from all over the world.
After two weeks of discussions with our group and others trying to get a direct flight to Phnom Penh, we are ready to give up the effort and return via South Korea. And this is assuming we can secure that flight, which appears possible to book only through travel agents. What about independent travellers who don’t have such access to agents as I do, thanks to my company? How are we expected to leave Thailand when it is logistically not possible to do so?
The absurdity of this situation is striking. The Thai government is set to end its amnesty for non-permanent residents, people who have remained here for various reasons such as to secure access to medical care. We are professionals who simply wish to return to our country of residence, Cambodia, but are unable to do so without risk due to the absence of direct outbound flights.
I sincerely hope that by bringing this issue to the attention of the media, we might make some progress in urging the Thai government to enable the safe return of travellers to their countries of residence. After all, we just want to go home. And for us, home is Cambodia.
Send letters to: [email protected] or PO Box 146, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length.
The views expressed above are solely the author’s and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.