Laos 'might need a push' to take full advantage of border crossing
Phayao: Despite the upgrading of Ban Huak crossing in Phu Sang district to a permanent border checkpoint, only local residents are currently allowed to travel across the border to Laos.
Wiroon Sitthuwong, chief of Phu Sang district, said the Ban Huak checkpoint operates on a border pass system, which means it remains accessible only to locals.
He said non-residents cannot pass through the crossing even if they carry passports because the immigration facility at Pang Mon in Xayaburi district opposite the Thai border town has yet to elevate its status to that of a universal border checkpoint.
According to the district chief, travel for local people is also restricted to the border towns.
Residents of Phayao are required to apply for a border pass using ID cards and the pass must be presented upon leaving and re-entering Phayao.
His clarification follows news reports about the planned opening of Ban Huak as a permanent crossing by Thai officials on Dec 18 while the Lao side is reportedly not ready for the border crossing upgrade.
Earlier, Chumpol Leelanon, coordinator of the provincial council of Phayao, confirmed the Pang Mon border in Xayaburi district in Laos was not ready to function as a universal border checkpoint, but no clear reason was given.
Local businesses have been calling on authorities to give Laos an incentive to upgrade its border crossing, describing the unilateral upgrade by Thailand as an an "incomplete" electrical circuit.
Pattana Sitthisombat, chairman of trade and commerce associations in 10 northern provinces, said Lao authorities "might need a little push" to help them see how their country stands to gain from the upgrading.
Thongdee Somkaew, 56, driver of a mini-passenger truck in Ban Huak, said it is a pity that the upgrade of the checkpoint is taking place on the Thai side only.
"The border crossing upgrade will be a waste if [the non-Phayao residents] can't cross the border to Laos," he said.
"I hope the officials will hold talks and resolve the issue."
The cabinet approved the upgrade of Ban Huak on July 31 this year and the opening of the permanent checkpoint was announced in the Royal Gazette by the Interior Ministry in early October.
The Thai side regards the upgrade as part of a border development plan to facilitate trade, investment and travel between the districts of Phu Sang and Chiang Kham, and the four border towns in Laos' Xayaburi, as it seeks to boost the local economy's prospects as well.