Inhabitants of Poipet, jubilant at the March 21 reopening of the Thai border, are nonetheless still feeling the effects of nearly two months of partial or total closure of the frontier, residents, officials and observers say.
People’s economic situation remains precarious, business at the town’s casinos has not resumed previous levels and Thai border guards have tightened controls, they say. “As you can imagine, [people] are pretty happy because they have work again; they’re eating rice again instead of [thin porridge or forest products],” Mike Fennema, Poipet program manager of the Netherlands NGO ZOA Refugee Care, said Sunday. “But their coping capacity has been limited. If anything else happens now, they are very vulnerable.”
Many slipped deep into debt and sold livestock and other goods at below usual prices to get through the closure, he said.
Vendor Neang Mom said last week her goods were not yet selling as well as she had hoped.
For the overwhelmingly Thai-patronized casinos, whose losses during the closure were estimated at around $10 million per week, business has picked up slowly, casino workers said.
Bun Hor, chief of the Poipet checkpoint, said Sunday that 200 to 300 Thais are crossing the border per day, versus 500 to 700 before the closure. Bun Hor and Poipet Immigration Police Chief Pich Saran said Thai officials are checking their citizens’ documents more carefully and enforcing regulations more strictly than before.
“I think they don’t want their people to come to gamble in Cambodian casinos. Cooperation is not 100 percent,” Bun Hor said. He also said Thai guards are charging Cambodians the $0.23 crossing fee per entry, rather than per day as they had before. Traders routinely cross multiple times to transport goods.
Despite such glitches, “The ordinary people have no disputes with each other,” Pich Saran said.