Vietnam and Cambodia are scheduled to sign this week an agreement that would allow Vietnamese and Cambodian citizens to travel between the two countries without a visa, officials said.
Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong, who left for Hanoi on Tuesday with a delegation led by Prime Minister Hun Sen, will sign the visa exemption agreement, one of five cooperation deals with Vietnam to be made official this week, Hun Sen adviser Sry Thamarong said at Phnom Penh International Airport Tuesday.
“Ordinary citizens with a normal passport can go to Vietnam, or [Vietnamese people] can come to Cambodia without a visa,” said Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong, adding that Cambodia already has similar deals with other Asean countries.
The visa exemptions will only apply to short stays, according to Koy Kuong and Vietnamese Embassy spokesman Trinh Ba Cam.
It is not yet clear when the exemption will come into effect, though Trinh Ba Cam said he expected it would be 30 days after the agreement is signed.
The deal would help build better relations between the people of both countries, he added.
“Of course, if many Cambodian people go to Vietnam as tourists, and Vietnamese come to Cambodia as tourists, they will meet each other, they will talk to each other,” Trinh Ba Cam said by telephone Tuesday.
“Of course, they will understand each other more and more,” he added.
The visa exemption will ease travel and business, save money for travelers and facilitate trade for local people along the border, said Ho Vandy, president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents.
Visas currently cost $25 for Cambodians to enter Vietnam and $20 for Vietnamese entering Cambodia, Ho Vandy said. Without those costs, tourist traffic between the two countries could increase 20 to 30 percent, he added.
SRP lawmaker Yim Sovann said he feared the visa exemption would make it easier for illegal immigrants to enter Cambodia.
“Of course, we are happy because tourists from both countries [can travel freely]…but we’re still concerned about the enforcement of the immigration law,” he said by telephone Tuesday.