The new international border crossing at O’Smach commune in Oddar Meanchey province opened earlier this week, but locals are worried an expected increase in border trade will not come to fruition.
The crossing achieved international status Sunday, and is now open seven days a week for all nationalities. But a new requirement for Thais and Cambodians to pay for visas may have scared away travelers, O’Smach commune official Chee Vin said.
“Before, Thais were allowed to get into Cambodia without paying visas or bringing passports,” he said. “They do not come to Cambodia because most of them are farmers and poor. Before [the border crossing] was opened, I expected a lot of people would be crossing, but our dream has disappeared.”
Others agreed. “I am very disappointed there haven’t been any customers in my taxi since the international checkpoint opened. Before it opened, there were many clients,” taxi driver Lay Heng said.
Before, vendors and tourists from both sides were allowed to travel across the border to markets on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays, including hundreds of Thai gamblers who flock to O’Smach’s two casinos.
“At the beginning I had hoped there would be a good sale because I had seven days a week to sell. Today, there are no Thais or Cambodians to buy my goods,” shoe vendor Ou Rithy said. “It is too quiet.”