European Union officials announced yesterday that Cambodia’s Poipet, Koh Kong and Bavet border checkpoints will be outfitted with new criminal and migrant worker tracking technologies next year as part of a project to standardize border-crossing procedures in Asean member states.
According to police officials, the checkpoint update project, discussed yesterday at a workshop in Phnom Penh attended by immigration officials from Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, is a pilot program that will be used to assess the feasibility of implementing a more interconnected system of managing border checkpoints.
“Poipet will be the first checkpoint to implement the project, which will help the Cambodian laborers who work in Thailand to cross back and forth freely, and help police track them using scannable Smart Cards,” said Lieutenant Salideth Peuo, Chief of the International Relations Section of the National Police’s Interpol Bureau.
The Smart Card Border Pass Implementation Plan dictates that the blue and yellow passes currently issued by provincial officials to Cambodian day laborers will be replaced with bar-coded passes that will record the flow of workers across a border that local immigration police admit remains porous.
Poipet immigration police chief Sao Bunrith said yesterday that while three to four thousand laborers pass through his checkpoint daily, many more cross the border illegally.
“I am not really sure what the significance of new technology will be,” said Mr Bunrith, adding that he nonetheless welcomed any input from or access to information held by Interpol.
Deputy Commissioner General of the National Police Lieutenant General Sok Phal stated in a speech at yesterday’s workshop that Cambodian points of entry could better combat “transnational crime, illegal migration and human trafficking” through the use of Interpol’s I-24/7 database system, which connects countries’ criminal records and provides background information as varied as DNA profiles and travel documentation histories.
The I-24/7 system, worth $788,000, will be installed at the Poipet and Bavet checkpoints in September 2011, and, according to Interpol officials, may also be implemented in Siem Reap’s and Phnom Penh’s international airports and at the Koh Kong border checkpoint.
According to Arabelle Bernecker, project manager for the International Center for Migration Policy Development, international enthusiasm for the I-24/7 program and for standardizing procedures meant that the main obstacles to modernizing Cambodia’s checkpoints would likely be internal.
“There are always stronger and weaker entities when dealing with borders and there is inevitably some struggle between police and immigration officials when it comes to checkpoints,” said Ms Bernecker.
EU-Asean Regional Cooperation Advisor Basil Vasilica Constantinescu said yesterday that the border project will consume $5.9 million of the $87.5 million in coordinating funding the EU allocated to the Asean Secretariat in 2007.