Thailand – Cambodia border checkpoint overwhelmed ahead of Songkran

Photo via Poipet International Border Checkpoint Police | I

The Poipet International Border Checkpoint between Thailand and Cambodia is so busy ahead of the Songkran – or the Southeast Asian New Year – that Thai authorities have had to open a second checkpoint nearby to ease congestion.

Like Thailand, Cambodia is celebrating the Buddhist New Year this weekend. In Cambodia, the holiday is called “Moha Sangkranta” and will be celebrated from Friday 14-15 this year.

Thousands of Cambodian migrant workers who wish to return home for the holidays are applying for re-entry permits on the Thai side of the border, so they can return to Thailand after the festivities are over, reports the Khmer Times.

Chief of Immigration on the Khmer side, Brigadier General E Chamroeun, said that the Thais have informed him that the congestion is because the Thai immigration officers only have one scanner at the Poipet checkpoint to process and issue re-entry permits.

Cambodian migrant workers have been lining up for re-entry permits since Monday, added the chief.

To speed up the queues, the Thai authorities are sending migrants to a second location equipped with a scanner in the Aranyaphrathet district of Sa Kaeo province.

Once their documents have been checked and a re-entry permit has been issued, officials are taking the migrants back to the Poipet checkpoint for immigration to check their passports and allow them to enter Cambodia to celebrate the new year.

Cambodian authorities are providing food packages and water for migrants upon arrival in Poipet after they have waited for hours in the sweltering summer heat, said the chief.

Meanwhile, Battambang Provincial Governor Sok Lou said the Thai-Khmer checkpoint in Battambang, which also crosses into Thailand’s Sa Keao province, is not facing delays and is operating as usual.

Just a 3.5 hour drive away from Bangkok, the Poipet checkpoint is a popular visa-run location for tourists looking to buy some more time in Thailand by exiting and reentering the country.

Beyond the immigration office on the Khmer side lies an otherwise unspectacular-looking urban municipality that transforms into a glittering, neon-lit gamblers’ Disneyland after dark.

In Cambodia, gambling is illegal for Cambodian nationals but not for foreigners. Therefore, a dozen casinos were built in Poipet – specifically for the Thai market – for Thai customers (and other non-Cambodian gamblers) who cross over the border to gamble legally, since most forms of gambling are illegal in Thailand.

READ: Should tourists in Thailand take a gamble on Poipet?

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Leah is a translator and news writer for the Thaiger. Leah studied East Asian Religions and Thai Studies at the University of Leeds and Chiang Mai University. Leah covers crime, politics, environment, human rights, entertainment, travel and culture in Thailand and southeast Asia.