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Alleged Discrimination Against Viet Tourists By Thai Customs Eyed

The Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) is looking into the issue of discrimination after a number of Vietnamese tourists reported complaints against Thai customs officers in the Poipet and Aranyaprathet border connecting Thailand and Cambodia who asked them to present a certain amount of cash and take their pictures holding the money next to their faces in a domineering and offensive manner.

VNAT Chief Nguyen Van Tuan and his agency is investigating the case after many Vietnamese tourists complained of Thai customs officers demanding that they present US$700 or 20,000 baths in cash and have their photographs taken with the money before they can cross the border gate to Thailand. According to the Thai customs officers, this regulation came about after many Vietnamese were found out to travel to Thailand as tourists but either originally or eventually planned to work illegally or even commit crimes. Prostitution was the primary illegal business that Vietnamese tourists allegedly entered into.

Tour guides and other Vietnamese travel representatives who are aware of the regulation inform their clients in advance so they could prepare the money before the trip. However, travel companies who have no knowledge of the said regulation have been unfortunately denied of their entry into the country. They had to ask their Thai partners to act as guarantors for the tourists who have failed to bring or present the required cash.

Certain Vietnamese tour guides and/ or companies have had these experiences with the Thai customs officers. A director of an HCMC-based travel company noticed that only Vietnamese tourists are subjected to this kind of uncivilized treatment, with Thai customs officers supposedly even grabbing the money out of the tourists’ hands and shouting at them. He stated that while Thai authorities have the right to ask Vietnamese tourists proof of their financial capacity before giving them permission to enter the country, they should do so in a professional and courteous manner, not publicly humiliating them.

The case has reached the Vietnamese travel forum and has equally expressed their dismay over the subject. One of the concerns raised was that the rule regarding the “cash photo” was not announced beforehand, supposedly giving the tourists ample opportunity to prepare the money needed before they left for their trip. Another issue was that tourists were not allowed to prove their financial capacity through credit cards, thus unable to provide the money even if they were capable of producing it and ended up having to go back to Cambodia.

But Tourism Authority of Thailand HCMC Director Chutathip Chareonlar denied the discrimation allegations, stating that the regulation was recently approved to address the growing problem of people entering Thailand as tourists but with the real intention to work illegally. According to her, the rule applies to all foreigners who enter the country via Aranyaprathet with tourist visas, and not targeted against Vietnamese tourists alone. Chareonlar further stated that taking a photo of a tourist holding up the money is a must in order to record the notes’ serial numbers and prevent a possible scenario of tourists passing the cash to one another through the checkpoint.

Still, this statement doesn’t come agreeable with Vu The Binh, Vietnam Tourism Association Chairman, who insisted that the regulation is insulting and plain unacceptable. He said that most tourists nowadays carry credit cards instead of cash when travelling because it is more convenient and safer. Many travellers also pay for their hotel and other accommodations in advance to make their trip less stressful and more relaxing as all trips/ vacations should be.

Some travel companies have already expressed intent to stop Thai tours if the said regulation is not cancelled. There is also a call for the Vietnamese government or concerned agencies to impose due punishment on citizens who violate overseas laws in order to prevent generalization and save those who are in fact obeying the rules.

At present, Vietnamese citizens can enter Thailand without visas and stay for 30 days when travelling by air and 15 days if by land. Around 500,000 Vietnamese are estimated to visit Thailand annually.


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