In what they are calling an attempt to crack down on illegal tourist entries, border officials have begun charging travelers entering Cambodia $20 to obtain a visa at the Poipet border crossing in Banteay Meanchey province.
Some authorities said Sunday the new fee has sent the number of casino-bound tourists plummeting. Before last weekend, Poipet’s casinos had as many as 700 foreign visitors per day. That number fell below 500 per day over the weekend.
Border officials began charging the fee upon orders from “upper leaders” in the Ministry of Interior, Poipet Checkpoint Chief Pich Saran said.
The new measure is designed to beef up security and to check to make sure foreigners coming into Cambodia have their paperwork in order, Pich Saran said. The order went into effect Friday, Pich Saran said.
Casinos are illegal in Thailand, and droves of Thais cross into Cambodia each day at several checkpoints, including Koh Kong and O’Smach commune in Oddar Meanchey province, to gamble at newly built casinos located just a few hundred meters from the border.
The fee is being charged to all foreigners entering Cambodia, not just Thai gambling enthusiasts, officials said.
“Cambodian authorities found some tourists inside Cambodia without passports or visas, and there are drugs crossing into Cambodia through this checkpoint,” the border chief said.
In spite of the impact on tourism, the measure will be good in the long term for Cambodia, immigration police officer To Phanna said.
“We lost a lot of money for the national budget when foreigners crossing into the country did not pay for their visas. Now we have all foreigners pay for their visas. It is good for the nation,” To Phanna said.
Casino owners are lobbying the Banteay Meanchey provincial government to lift the fees, but they will have to file formal complaints and follow the process of law, Banteay Meanchey province Governor Thach Khorn said.
There are seven casinos in Poipet. The first one, the Holiday Palace Casino and Hotel, was built in 1998.