Cross-Border Tourism Light

It should be a backpacker’s de­light: traveling overland from Bangkok to northeastern Thai­land, crossing the Cambodian border at Banteay Mean­chey, and ending up at Siem Reap’s ancient wonder of Angkor Wat.

Cambodia’s Ministry of Tour­ism says the trip is possible, but few are taking advantage of it. In early April, more than a month after the Poipet border crossing became a permanent in­terna­tional post, local police reported about six or seven West­ern tour­ists were crossing the border every day.

But the number isn’t close to what Cambodian tourism officials are hoping to see.

“Both the countries have sign­ed agreements opening the road, but until now we have not seen it transferred into reality. Now we want to make it official for tour­ists,” said So Mara, director-general of the Ministry of Tourism.

A delegation from the Cam­bodian Ministry of Tourism is meeting in Bangkok this week with Thai counterparts to discuss ways of promoting the route.

Most foreign embassies have issued warnings for travelers in northwest Cambodia, where sporadic fighting between government and rebel troops continues.

Tourism officials will make the trip, examining road and security conditions and visa accessibility along the way. They will assess where roads need to be improved and advertising possibilities.

According to the Ministry of Tourism, most foreign tourists to Cambodia can easily get a tourist visa at Poipet.

The Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh said visitors to Thailand can get a tourist visa at the border. Most nationalities planning to stay in Thailand for more than a month, however, need to apply for a visa at a Thai consulate before crossing the border.

Cambodians living in Poipet can get a temporary pass to stay in Thailand for a week. Other Cambo­dians can only get a one-day pass with no overnight stay.

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