Airport Tries To Stem Graft

In an effort to curb what police and Cambodian travelers have de­nounced as widespread extortion by police officials, the Interior Ministry’s immigration police de­partment has posted notices at Phnom Penh International Air­port informing Cambodians that they are not obliged to pay fees upon re-entering their country.

The Khmer-language signs were installed early this month, af­ter complaints by returning Cam­bodians that immigration police were demanding $10 to $20 per passenger for what they termed as “service fees.” There is no visa fee for Cambodian nationals.

“We had received complaints from [Cambodian passengers] about this scandal for many years,” Phnom Penh Inter­na­tional Airport Immigration Po­lice Chief Chhay Bunna said Wednes­day. “We must…let people know the government does not order [police] to collect money from Cam­bodian people and [to] avoid any opportunist who does it.”

Unscrupulous airport officials have pointed to the $20 tourist and $25 business visa fees charged to foreigners to trick Cambodians into paying, Kirth Chan­tha­rith, Department for Foreigners director, said Thursday.

“It is not only our police in­volved in this, but also related workers in Phnom Penh Interna­tional Airport. Now, we allow Cam­bodians to learn it publicly,” he said.

Many Cambodian expatriates said they have come to expect de­manded bribes as a regular hassle of a visit home. “We are here to meet relatives and visit our own country, but we are always disturbed by immigration police,” said Ean Khom, 35, last week.

Ean Khom, who lives in the US and visits Cambodia every year, said she regularly pays police $20 to be allowed through customs.

“If they asked us for charity or to give voluntarily, it would be no problem, but they force us to pay for what they claim is their service,” she said.

Despite the new signs, airport workers and passengers said the practice continues. “Even though an announcement is posted at the arrival, im­migration police still take money from Cambodians,” said an airport worker who asked not to be named.

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