African NGO Pair Hassled On Way to Cambodia

A Kenyan woman and a Ugandan man traveling to Phnom Penh to launch a regional project for the international humanitarian group ActionAid were separately prevented from boarding flights in Bangkok on Saturday, despite having proper documentation, they said.

Nkatha Mercy, 35, and Muguzi Henry, 44, were traveling from their respective countries on Bangkok Airways for a one-week business trip when they were told that they needed to provide more details of their travels before heading to Phnom Penh, they said on Sunday.

Each had a valid passport, return tickets and a letter of invitation to the country from ActionAid that was approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, they said. Ms. Mercy had a visa in her passport. Mr. Henry had a document showing that a visa was waiting for him upon arrival in Phnom Penh.

When Mr. Henry arrived at his gate in Bangkok at 8 a.m., he was asked to show his hotel reservation in Phnom Penh, he said. Unable to access the internet immediately, he missed his intended flight, and then was told to leave the airport to print out the reservation.

“This person is trying to make as many excuses as they can,” said Mr. Henry, who finally boarded a plane six hours after his intended departure. “This has nothing to do with anything objective. This is racism.”

At about the time that he left, Ms. Mercy landed in Bangkok from Dubai. She was made to wait at her gate, and then asked to get a taxi driver on the telephone to verify that she would be picked up at the airport upon arrival, causing her to miss a 4:45 p.m. flight.

It was not until a woman on her initial flight called the airline from Phnom Penh to vouch for her that Ms. Mercy was allowed on a later flight.

“We are here to build the capacity of people in Southeast Asia,” Ms. Mercy said. “It doesn’t matter what qualifications you hold. What they see is what they see.”

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