Saturday, December 27, 2008

Cambodia's crackdown on Poipet touts


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Written by May Kunmakara   
FRIDAY, 26 DECEMBER 2008

Tourism Ministry issues new guidelines for tour operators
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Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Poipet Deputy Tourist Police Chief Prum Chandy says after recent complaints, his department has targeted tourist harassment. 

CAMBODIA'S Tourism Ministry this week reached an agreement it hopes will end aggressive tactics by private tour operators at the Poipet border checkpoint that have tarnished the Kingdom's image and led to complaints by tourists.

Problems first arose in late November after political unrest in Bangkok led to the closure of Thailand's two principal airports, increasing the number of tourists passing through the Poipet checkpoint by more than 11 percent, said Chhung Lim, director of the Tourism Bureau in Banteay Meanchey.

The increase in border traffic led to rival tour operators fighting for business, which escalated earlier this month with tourists being shouted at, having their luggage snatched from them and being forced into vehicles by five competing tour companies, border officials told local media at the time.  

Tourism Minister Thong Khon said the new agreement would require private tour companies to operate on a fixed schedule that would eliminate unruly competition for clients and provide transparent fares and fixed visa prices in US dollars.

"I have offered them a schedule whereby tour associations work in shifts - one per day - to avoid problems and improve their image among foreign tourists," he said. 

Prum Chandy, deputy chief of the Poipet Tourist Police, said he has seen tourist security and services increase dramatically in his three years of service, and complaints from tourists overall have decreased nearly 95 percent.

The frequency of the once daily complaints of pickpockets, visa and money changing scams, as well as hassles from transport companies, have dropped  to an average of less than one per month, he claimed.

But Prum Chandy said the increase of tourists in late November posed a threat to safety and order at  the crossing, so his department has been working with immigration police to get rid of pickpockets and the forceful tactics of private tourism companies.

"We completely cracked down 100 percent," he said. "This doesn't happen anymore."

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