NGO: Airline Verifications Just ‘Routine Checks’

The Cambodia director for ActionAid on Monday brushed off as “routine checks” two racial profiling complaints against Bangkok Airways by a Kenyan woman and Ugandan man flying to Phnom Penh to work with the international humanitarian group.

Another report has since surfaced also alleging the airline’s mistreatment of Africans in Bangkok.

Nkatha Mercy, 35, and Muguzi Henry, 44, were each stopped at the gates of their flights from Bangkok to Phnom Penh on Saturday on their way to launch a regional ActionAid project. ActionAid had supported the pair by providing a letter of invitation and help with obtaining a visa.

Mr. Henry was told to leave the airport to print his hotel reservation before he could board, while Ms. Mercy was required to get a taxi driver on the telephone to verify she would be picked up on her arrival.

After being briefed on the two incidents, ActionAid’s country director in Cambodia, Hun Boramey, said the airline’s requirements were standard practice.

“ActionAid understands the need for routine checks to safeguard the security of the region,” she said in an email.

Others, however—including the two denied boarding—contend that the additional requirements amount to racial profiling.

Jochen Neugebauer, a 58-year-old German resident of Preah Sihanouk province, said his wife, Almaz, who is from Ethiopia, received similar treatment from Bangkok Airways when she tried to board her flight in Bangkok last month.

“She had a valid passport with [a] valid e-visa for Cambodia and a return ticket, but was refused to board the flight—the reason being she needed to have a security deposit of $1,500 at immigration,” he said.

Two other Africans on her flight were also pulled aside, Mr. Neugebauer said.

“After she called me in distress, I asked for assistance from Bangkok Airways staff at Phnom Penh International Airport,” he said.

Airport staff got her on the flight and she had no issue upon arrival, Mr. Neugebauer said.

Airline officials in Bangkok could not be reached for comment. Woraluck Porntisarn, the country manager in Cambodia, referred questions to the country station manager, Mayoon Udom, because “it’s about my colleague’s department.” Mr. Udom did not respond to a request for comment.

Sok Veasna, a director at the Interior Ministry’s general department of immigration, said “it is possible” that these were cases of racial profiling.

“I couldn’t say [as] we need to follow up with the case. We deal case by case,” he said. “I just heard that it’s about a Kenyan and two other people from Africa. So I can’t answer whether it’s because of this or that.”

“We are concerned,” he said. “So if you have any little complaint regarding that, I’m happy to receive an email as well.”

He later confirmed that the department would investigate the cases of Ms. Mercy and Mr. Henry.

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