Plans Discussed to Grant Thais Easy Access to the Temples

Cambodia is mooting plans to allow Thais living in border provinces access to Siem Reap using border passes in a bid to restimulate the tourism industry that was severely hit by the pandemic
Tourists visit Angkor Wat temple in Siem Reap province. Kiripost/Iea Sonita
Tourists visit Angkor Wat temple in Siem Reap province. Kiripost/Iea Sonita

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Cambodian officials and businesses have mooted attracting Thai nationals living in the provinces bordering Cambodia to visit Siem Reap, especially the Angkor resort, without passports as part of post-pandemic tourism recovery efforts.

In a news release on Tuesday, Hor Sarun, Secretary of State of the Ministry of Tourism, said that Tourism Minister Thong Khon has lodged a suggestion with the government to allow Thais living in border provinces to cross into Siem Reap by using only a border pass.

Thai people living near the border can enter two Cambodian provinces without having to use passports, Sarun said. He added that Thais in Sa Kaeo province can enter via Banteay Meanchey to visit Siem Reap. Those in Surin province can pass through Oddar Meanchey.

"Some Thai people want to visit Angkor Wat but they do not have a passport, so if they live in a border province, they can apply for a border pass and be able to visit Angkor as well," Sarun said.

If the plans can be implemented, Cambodia will benefit more from tourism through the direct visits of Thai tourists living in provinces bordering Cambodia, Sarun said.

The Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh did not respond to Kiripost’s request for comment.

Alasdair Scott, Mission Chief of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for Cambodia, said on Tuesday that the government has done a lot to support the tourism sector through Covid-19, including tax breaks and cash transfers. However, the border only reopened in March and already the prospects look good.

“I think we have to accept the fact that consumers and the rest of the world need time to adjust to learn that Cambodia is open and they will make their holiday plans well ahead,” Scott told a virtual news conference on Tuesday.

“We are still quite positive that next year tourism could be a strong drive for growth of the economy,” he added.

Din Somethearith, President of Cambodia Hotel Association, said on Wednesday that the initiative will benefit Cambodia and Thailand overall in the long-term and other countries, including Indonesia, that have already allowed foreigners to visit without visa to attract more tourists.

“This is like fishing where we use bait, we stick good bait to get big fish,” Somethearith told Kiripost. “We waive this and we will lose money from the visa, which is $25, but if they enter Cambodia and sleep a few nights, they may spend $100, so it helps a lot the livelihoods of our people along the border.”

Somethearith believes that once Cambodia waives this, Thailand will eventually follow suit, benefiting all.

He said that this will also help spur border trade activities. “When it is easy to go in and out, people just want to go in and out, and the world is turning this way, just like in the European Union, where people just travel showing only IDs.”

Some Thais along the border also speak Khmer, he said, adding that they might visit Cambodian provinces to know more, calling this initiative a smart move to attract tourists.

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