Friday, November 7, 2008

Subregional summit pushes Single Visa Scheme for five SE Asian countries

   By Han Quao

    HANOI, Nov. 7 (Xinhua) -- Delegates attending the 3rd ACMECS Summit called for the implementation of Single Visa Scheme on Friday to facilitate entry into five southeastern Asian countries including Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

    ACMECS is short for Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy. Ayeyawady, Chao Phraya and Mekong are three mother rivers that culturally and historically unify these five countries in heart of Southeast Asia.

    "ACMECS shall expedite the implementation of single visa for tourists outside ACMECS to boost tourism in this area,"said Oknha Kith Meng, president of the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce on Friday at ACMECS Business Forum, which was held on the sideline of the summit.

    The move, allowing a tourist with one visa to travel through five ACMECS countries, will help ACMECS countries move towards the goal of"Five Countries, One Destination," said the chamber official.

    The five southeastern Asian countries are rich in tourism resources, with well-known tourist spots in each country, like Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, Luang Prabang in Laos, Siem Reap in Cambodia, Bagan in Myanmar and Sukhothai in Thailand.

    The Cambodian chamber official said tourism has contributed significantly to the Cambodian economic growth. In Cambodia where double digit growth has been registered for the past four years, tourism sector grew 18.5 percent in 2007 over the previous year.

    As a pilot project for ACMECS Single Visa Scheme, Cambodia and Thailand signed agreement on the implementation of ACMECS Single Visa last year. According to Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, Thailand is now amending laws and regulations in response to the agreement.

    In addition to the single visa for ACMECS countries, delegates at the summit also proposed the issuance of ACMECS Travel Card. With similar function as the APEC card, ACMECS card will be issued to people of ACMECS countries, first to business persons maybe, for traveling within the five member countries, without applying for any visa, according to a proposal submitted by the ACMECS Business Council at the summit.

    To boost the dynamic cooperation within ACMECS framework, the council also proposed that ACMECS should expedite the granting of border pass to residents living in border areas and motor vehicles to travel across the border and go further into another country.

    Considering that Thailand is a country with right-steering-wheel vehicles, the council urged other ACMECS member countries to allow the use of right-steering-wheel vehicles for tourism purpose and enable Thai tourists to drive and visit four neighboring countries.

    The current global financial crisis has posed difficulty on many sectors and tourism is hit hard. To deal with this, delegates at the summit called for closer cooperation within ACMECS framework, which has just echoed the theme of this year's summit "Deepening Cooperation Towards A More Effective And Dynamic ACMECS".

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