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Foreign tourists trapped in Cambodia by red tape

Chhut Bunthoeun / Khmer Times No Comments Share:

RELATED NEWS: UK Man organises charter flight from Cambodia to get stranded UK tourists home

Foreign holidaymakers have effectively become stranded in Cambodia because of extreme conditions being set by airports around the world. Governments are enforcing strict policies that all transiting passengers must have their health certified by an acceptable hospital before leaving any Cambodian international airport to return to their home country.

Chhay Sivlin, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents told Khmer Times yesterday that all airline companies now require foreign tourists to have their health certified by the French non-profit Pasteur Institute in Phnom Penh, ensuring that they are not affected with COVID-19. “I have also been told to suggest to those stranded foreign tourists to check their health at Phnom Penh’s Chak Angre hospital where the certification is also issued from the Pasteur Institute,” she said.

However, Chhay has confirmed that Pasteur Institute does not check for those who do not show symptoms of being sick, in an effort to preserve the limited number of testing kits in the country. Adding to the conundrum, Pasteur Institute will only issue positive test and the negative test certificate will not be issued, for reasons currently unknown.

Tourists at Phnom Penh international airport. Khmer Times

“We have heard that doctors at the referral hospital are refusing to check some people, if they have just stated they are for travelling purposes, explaining that there are many serious patients to look after,” she added. “This is the conundrum that all tourists are now facing because they need to go back home now, with many spending all their money on tickets back home, only to have their flights cancelled and find they cannot be refunded.”

Chhay verified this has been happening over the last week and every day there are about 100 tourists asking to receive these health certifications. With organisations now seeking help from government intervention to help cope with the problem.

“We need government intervention now to decide which other referral hospitals can be formally accepted for the certifications,” she said.

Chhay said this problem cannot be ignored because it will not go away and could cause irreparable damage to the tourism industry.

For many tourists wondering about visa overstay fines, Sok Phal, Secretary of State at the Interior Ministry,  said he is seeking approval from the Minister of the Interior Sar Kheng to waive the normal daily $10 overstay fines for tourists stranded in the country because of the ongoing severe disruption to flights caused by COVID-19. “Officials are currently collating the exact number of people whose legal documentation to stay within the country is no longer of concern to us,” he added.

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