Cambodia struggles with porous border as pandemic takes hold

As Covid-19 cases surge in Southeast Asia, illegal border crossings are being blamed for the spread.

Cambodia’s notoriously porous border has a long history of smuggling, ranging from human trafficking and drugs to petrol and ancient Buddhist artifacts, by crime bosses who took a strategic view of the country and its access to neighbors and the coast.

Bordering Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, Cambodia’s 3,700-kilometer border is now under intense scrutiny amid fears the latest Covid-19 outbreak could spread even further as the region continues to confirm caseloads in record numbers.

“I used to work at a casino in Bavet and live in Vietnam and cross the border twice a day on my motorbike,” said a 25-year-old former casino worker. “We knew all the back ways and the police were tolerant, but that’s all changed.”

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