BANGKOK- Thailand and Cambodia agreed on Wednesday, December 26, to finally implement a single visa agreement. The project was adopted a couple of years ago but many times delayed due to political tensions between both Kingdoms as well as technical difficulties to put on the single visa. Since December 27, tourists from 35 countries can consequently obtain a single visa to visit both countries. The visa allows visitors to stay up to 60 days in Thailand and 60 days in Cambodia.
Under the terms of the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya Mekong Economic Co-operation Strategy (ACMECS) single visa, tourists from countries can apply for entry visas at Thai or Cambodian embassies or consulate offices for the two destinations, according to Thailand newspapers.
ACMECS, initiated by Thailand and set up in 2003, is a joint development agreement involving Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand and Vietnam.
Foreign ministers of the Greater Mekong Sub-region countries (all countries except China) have discussed single visa concept several times, but Thailand and Cambodia became the first to sign an agreement in 2007, and are the first to implement concretely the scheme. The success of the two-country’s visa will be carefully watched by other ASEAN countries as the region wants to implement an ASEAN single visa for tourists, based on the EU Schengen visa application.
The ACMECS Single Visa should boost tourism in both countries as well as fulfil Thailand's objective to become a regional hub for tourism, said Thailand Foreign Minister Surapong Towichuk-chaikul, who jointly chaired a joint commission on bilateral cooperation with his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong yesterday.
Cambodian Foreign Minister highlighted that the two nations would most certainly benefit from the single-visa scheme as it would make travel between the two countries more convenient.
As for concern that traffickers might exploit the scheme, both countries have a "pre-clearance" system. For instance, if a visitor applies for a visa at a Thai embassy, the documents will be forwarded to its Cambodian counterpart for approval, which will have the authority to reject the application, and vice versa. Also, visa fees for both countries will have to be paid. For instance, the Thai embassy will charge Bt1,000 for entry into Thailand and the tourist will have to pay the Cambodian visa fee upon arrival in that country and vice versa. It still means that neither Cambodia or Thailand are able to issue a “multiple-entry visa”, which is just still the opposite to the principles of EU Schengen-visa.
Apart from the single visa, Thailand and Cambodia foreign ministers also discussed several cooperation strategies at the meeting yesterday, including joint efforts in the security, economic, social and cultural spheres. They also agreed to set up a permanent border checkpoint between Ban Nong Aian in Sa Kaew province and Stung Bot in Cambodia's Banteay Meanchey province, as well as a temporary checkpoint at Sa Kaew's Ban Non Mak Moon and Banteay Meanchey's Ban Pray Chan.
Thailand will also do a feasibility study on upgrading a road linking the Stung Bot checkpoint to Cambodia's Highway No 5 to Phnom Penh. The State Railway of Thailand will also provide assistance in building a railway bridge connecting Sa Kaew's Kongluek village with Poi Pet in Cambodia to facilitate trade and tourism.
(Picture from Thailand The Nation)