Communication between Thai and Cambodian authorities at the Poipet border checkpoint is breaking down over a dispute concerning border passes, Cambodian officials said Thursday, despite hopes that the passes would improve relations and access for local authorities in the two countries.
The two governments reached an agreement about two months ago to create a border pass that would allow some citizens living in border provinces to cross freely.
Tensions have arisen at the Poipet checkpoint, where Thai authorities are enforcing the new policy even though many eligible Cambodians have not yet received their passes, said Banteay Meanchey governor Thach Khorn.
Only residents and authorities in Banteay Meanchey’s O’Chrou district have been issued new passes, he said. He said the rest of the province is waiting for approval from the Foreign Affairs Ministry, He didn’t know when it would come. Several officials from the Foreign Affairs Ministry declined to comment on Thursday.
Authorities who were used to crossing the border easily are now frustrated at being denied access, an immigration official said.
“Before, we civil servants could visit their province near Cambodia’s border…even though we had no passport. But since January, Thai police do not allow us to drive our own cars into their country, even though we have passports,” said Meng Tengly, immigration police chief at Poipet’s checkpoint.
The issue was an “emotional” one, he said, adding that relations between the countries have deteriorated since the fiasco began.
Two months ago, between 300 and 600 Thai citizens crossed into Cambodia each day, he said. Now, only 100 to 200 do. “They are carrying out strict measures, so we are also following our measures according to the law. They do not allow us understanding as neighboring authorities, and we do not permit them as well,” he said.