Under the directive of Ms. Wijaraporn Amatayakul, Director of the Technical Services and Planning Bureau at the Department of Provincial Administration, Ministry of Interior, Ms. Thannicha Lermtong, the project manager of the Enhancing people-to-people connectivity to address Non-Traditional Security in the Mekong Region’ (NTS-Mekong Watch), and her team conducted the site visit to Sa  Kaeo for follow-up on the project’s progress implementation from March 14-15, 2023, in  3  districts of Sakaeo Province.  (Klong Had, Aranyaprathet and Ta Phaya District). This project supported by the Mekong – Korea Cooperation Fund (MKCF).

During this site visit, the district reported to the the NTS- Mekong Watch project team on the implementation and the progression of the establishment of the NTS-Mekong Watch Coordination Center (NTS-MWCC) in the bordering district, finding that the operations were progressing well. They established inspection checkpoints to prevent and combat illegal activities. Issues found in the border areas included illegal immigration through natural channels along the border and smuggling activities, such as tax evasion and motorcycle theft for sale in neighboring countries.

Furthermore, the NTS-Mekong Watch project team conducted on-site studies of border management in various agencies and areas, including the border checkpoint of Ban Khoadin, the border checkpoint of Klong Luek – Rong Klua Market and the Checkpoint for border trade at Ban Nhong Prue and Ban Ta Phaya.  Including discussion and consultation with various agencies involved in border management, such as customs, military, village chiefs, and others. The finding found that due to Cambodia’s policy of strict with its citizens to use Border Pass to enter Thailand. The result of this policy has effect the significantly reduced cross-border trade activity, leading to economic losses for both sides.

Due to the complexity and lengthy process of obtaining the aforementioned border passes, it has become difficult for people on both sides to access them, limiting their ability to travel freely between the two countries. This has become a significant factor leading to the illegal migration of Cambodian laborers into the city, impacting the lives and safety of people on both sides. Currently, border crossings have primarily become channels for large companies’ cargo trucks, further exacerbating the situation.

Furthermore, The NTS-Mekong Watch team village meeting and had a chance to explained the NTS – Mekong Watch project to the public. This includes studying the natural border path between Thailand and Cambodia. Moreover, the team also met with Mr. Sok Norn, the Deputy District Chief of Malai District, Phailin Province, which is the twinned city of Aranyaprathet District. Mr. Sok Norn graciously welcomed and engaged in discussions with the team, reiterating the positive relationship between local leaders who have consistently collaborated on various initiatives, as witnessed during the Thai-Cambodian bilateral operational meetings.

From this on-site visit, the NTS Mekong Watch team has observed how various border areas implement border management strategies aligned with the concept of “building strong cross-border communities,” as promoted by the project. This includes having strong local leadership that serves as a support for the people.

Moreover, it involves using ethical decision-making in addressing contentious issues faced by the community. It was found that local leaders understand the context of Cambodian laborers coming to work in agriculture in Thailand and recognize that effective management could benefit both sides. Thailand faces a labor shortage, while Cambodian workers seek income opportunities. This issue thus becomes a crucial focal point for relevant agencies to collaborate in finding solutions to improve the quality of life for border area residents moving forward.