Thai authority denied Cambodian tourists entry to Thailand and demanded them to pay $1500 each
8th January, 2009
Reaksmey Kampuchea newspaper
Translated from Khmer by Khmerization
The 7-storey Jupiter Cruise liner (pictured) with 450 passengers had docked at a Bangkok Seaport on 25th December, 2008 at 10:30am with the hopes that the passengers will be able to celebrate Christmas in the land of Thailand. On the cruise ship there were 269 Cambodian passengers but it was the worst nightmare for them that the Thai authority did not allow them to leave the ship and sent them packing back to Cambodia.
On the 4th of December, Jupiter Cruise, as part of its first launch, has left Phu Quoc (Koh Tral) island in Nha Trang province for Kompong Som in Cambodia to go to Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket in Thailand. This is a free cruise and according to Mr. Benson Samay, defence attorney for the cruise, on the cruise ship there were 269 Cambodian passengers, among them there were 27 Cambodian passengers who hold diplomatic and government official passports, 22 Cambodians who hold foreign passports and 215 Cambodians who hold ordinary passports with Thai visas stamped on them.
In a letter to Mr. Chheang Vun, Chairman of Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, sent on 6th January, 2009, Mr. Benson Samay said that, according to an English captain of the Jupiter Cruise, the Thai authority did not allow the Cambodian passengers to enter into Thailand by using an excuse that “there might be some Khmer Rouge disguising among the passengers who can create insecurity in their country (Thailand).” The letter added that the Thai authority will only allow the Cambodian passengers to enter Thailand “on the condition that those Cambodian passengers agreed to pay $1500 each person in security bond and the bond money can only be withdrawn after 3 months time.”
Mr. Chheang Vun has told Reaksmey Kampuchea newspaper that he has sent the letter to Mr. Long Visalo, Secretary of State of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to summon the Thai officials to explain the incident.
Mr. Chheang Vun added: “if this information is true, it is a regrettable incident”, by adding that he was not aware whether the cruise ship has sufficient documents to enter Thailand or not, Mr. Chheang Vun said that Cambodia and Thailand have a visa agreement, and among the 269 passengers, only 5 passengers who did not have the Thai visas. Mr. Chheang Vun said that according to Mr. Benson Samay, those 5 passengers did not wish to leave the cruise ship to enter the Thai territories. By saying this, Mr. Chheang Vun wanted to stress that there is no reason for the Thai authority to bar the 269 Cambodian passengers from entering Thai territories.
Mr. Benson Samay added that the Thai authority allowed the Vietnamese passengers to disembark the cruise ship to enter Thai territories by transporting the 24 Vietnamese passengers by boat to Bangkok. The Cambodian were not allowed to enter Thailand unless they agreed to pay the $1500 security bond as requested.
Under international regulations, regulated by the International Maritime Organisation (OMI), the regulations for any ships to dock at any international seaports are not linked to the passengers on board of the ships. This means that as long as the passengers on the ship have appropriate visas agreed between the two countries, they must be allowed to enter the country they intended to visit. On the contrary, if the passengers have no proper documentations, when the ship has already docked at any international ports, those passengers can remain on the ship legally because that ship is considered as “a country” as well.
Two days ago an official from the Thai Foreign Ministry told the Thai media that he did not know of the incident and that same official has assured that Thailand will launch an investigation if there is a detailed diplomatic protest from Cambodia.