Thailand Strife Cuts Cambodia’s International Postal Links

Cambodia’s international postal service has been suspended for nearly a week because of the up­heaval at Bangkok’s international airport, and the suspension of service will continue for at least one more week, Minister of Posts and Tele­communications So Khun said Monday.

Normally, about 1 ton of letters and parcels from Cambo­dia is flown through Bangkok’s Suvarna­bhumi Airport every day, but that stopped Nov 26, the day after anti-government protesters forced the closure of the airport, So Khun said.

The minister said he did not know how much mail has been blocked from entering Cambodia since last week, or en route to Bangkok.

So Khun said his ministry is looking for another regional hub, possibly Singapore, to sort and ship the country’s international mail, and is currently in talks with Taiwanese carrier EVA Airways.

“We stopped sending packages [Nov 26], and we asked senders to take their packages and letters back. We may start the [postal service] next week after talking with Eva,” he said.

Oscar Chen, general manager for Eva Airways in Cambodia, confirmed that the airline is in negotiations regarding transport for the postal service.

“We are still in talks,” Chen said.

Wilfred Koh, general manager of Fedex in Cambodia, said the situation in Thailand has not affected Fedex, which uses Singapore, not Bangkok, as its hub serving Cambodia.

According to a news release from DHL Express, Bangkok is the company’s main shipment hub for Southeast Asia, and it is now rerouting packages through Singapore, Hong Kong and small Thai airports that are still operational.

The postal service suspension is one of several recent problems in Cambodia caused by the unrest in Thailand, but the tourism industry has sustained the hardest hit.

The Poipet border checkpoint with Thailand saw more than 1,000 foreigners daily—more than double the usual amount-passing into Cambodia in the immediate aftermath of the airport closures, but the number of foreign visitors crossing the border plummeted this week, said Pich Saran, immigration police chief at the checkpoint.

“It started Nov 27, two days after the airport was blocked,” he said of the temporary surge in foreigners entering Cambodia. Pich Saran added that some airline companies were apparently paying for travelers to journey to Cambodia.

By Monday, however, the number of foreigners entering the country at Poipet had decreased to zero, when it should normally be about 500, he said.

Uth Sopheap, director of the Poipet international checkpoint, said trade at the border checkpoint has also slumped gradually since last week.

Before last week’s airport closure, more than 2,200 tourists traveled to and from Cambodia through Bangkok every day, comprising about 25 percent of all Cambodian arrivals and departures, according Societe Conces­sionnaire des Aeroports, which operates Cambodia’s international airports.

Ho Vandy, president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, estimated that the loss to the country is about $1 million per day. Still, he said that ultimately Cambodia could benefit from Thailand’s ordeal.

If demand for holidays in Thailand drops, Cambodia, if it acts quickly, could absorb it, he said.

“Cambodia should convince those people to visit Cambodia instead,” he said. “We should not wait.”

He said a group of public sector tourism officials will meet with Ministry of Tourism officials to form a task force to create strategies to benefit from and deal with the situation.

Chan Sophal, president of the Cambodian Economic Associa­tion, said that Cambodia depends on Bangkok less than in the past, but it is still a significant partner for Cambodia’s tourism sector. He said he didn’t think the effects would be long-lasting.

“It is better for Cambodia to diversify its linkages and not to heavily depend on Thailand,” he added.

The stopping of airline services to Bangkok has also affected the availability of some regional and in­ternational publications in Phnom Penh.

Since Nov 26, Thai newspapers The Bangkok Post and The Na­tion, as well as the Inter­na­tional Herald Tribune have been un­available, said William Bagley, general manager of Monument Books and Toys, which imports the newspapers.

“I would certainly say that The Bangkok Post is very avidly read,” he said, adding that the recent news has only enhanced the demand.

“People are finding alternatives,” he said.

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