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Sunday, September 07, 2008

E-visa eases travel chore

For an upcoming tour to Cambodia, I got a visa for $25 via e-mail, and it took just two days.

That's about nine days faster and $100 cheaper than the traditional method of filling out a paper application, then mailing it with your passport to a visa expeditor.

Tourists go online to http://evisa.mfaic.gov.kh/, fill out the form, upload their photo, use PayPal to pay the fee and press Submit.

It benefits Cambodia, which is trying to attract tourists. It benefits travelers, because it's so easy. Two days later, I came back to the Web site, entered a reference number and my e-mail address and downloaded the visa..

While American tourists can travel to many popular countries such as England and France without a visa, e-visas make traveling to visa-requiring nations not only easier, but more welcoming.

One hopes more of them will join the trend. Bahrain has it. Armenia has it.
Even Australia has replaced its requirement that American tourists have visas with an easier online Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) requirement. The ETA is good for up to three months and can be applied for at www.eta.immi.gov.au.


Meanwhile, the United States still has one of the toughest visa policies in the world. Would-be visitors from most countries need a personal interview even to get a tourist visa. Now, the U.S. is using e-visa technology as a new security measure.


Starting Jan. 12, even visitors from countries that don't need visas, such as England and Germany, will have to register before their trip to the U.S. at the "Electronic System for Travel Authorization" Web site at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov. It requires visitors to provide all the information they would provide for a visa, so it's basically a de-facto visa requirement, even though it features electronic approval.


While some countries are using e-visas to reduce barriers to tourism, the U.S. is doing the opposite.


What does 'bumped' mean?


There was confusion among readers when I wrote recently about a new law that doubles the amount of compensation airlines must pay for bumping passengers off flights.
The main question: Does it count as being bumped if your flight is canceled? No.


"Bumped" means only one thing -- that you are a confirmed passenger on a flight but are denied boarding at the gate because the plane is full, AND it leaves without you even though you did not volunteer to be bumped, AND you refuse whatever compensation the airline offers you.


In that case, the airline must follow federal law. If it cannot get you to your destination within an hour of when your original flight was to have arrived it must pay you up to $800, depending on the level of delay.


The number of truly bumped passengers is only about 1 per 10,000, but nobody wants to be that one unlucky dude.


Wi-Fi coming to Delta

Delta Airlines is installing Wi-Fi technology on its planes to make it possible to surf the Internet in flight.


Available by late fall on some aircraft, it should be on the whole fleet by next summer, for $9.95 per flight. American Airlines has announced a similar move.


In theory, Internet in the air sounds fine. My only worry? If some loudmouth with a headset hooks up an Internet telephone-type connection like Skype at 30,000 feet and blabs for hours, circumventing the no cell phone rule.


On the other hand, maybe someone could use Skype to order mid-air pizza for the starving passengers.
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Anti-tank mine kills 5, wounds 3 in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - A truck hit an anti-tank mine in a former stronghold of Cambodia's ultra-communist Khmer Rouge guerrillas, killing at least five people and wounding three, police said on Sunday.

The victims of Friday's accident in the northwestern district of Anlong Veng included women and children who were traveling in a truck carrying rice to a mill, police said.

The area near the Thai border, was once a base for Khmer Rouge guerrillas and is where the group's chief, Pol Pot, died in 1998.

Recent heavy rain could have loosened the soil and shifted the mine onto the road, provincial police chief Menn Ly said.

Decades of civil war, especially in the former battlefields of Khmer Rouge, left Cambodia as the world's most mined country -- an estimated 4-6 million landmines are believed to be still planted in the countryside.

Mine-clearing teams have cleared over 400 square km (155 sq miles) of land but another 4,000 square km are still to be de-mined, said Leng Sochea, a spokesman for Cambodia's Mine Action Centre.

About 450 people are killed each year in Cambodia by mines, down from about 800 in earlier years. Many more are maimed.

(Reporting by Ek Madra; Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan; Editing by Bill Tarrant)

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Cambodia’s ethnic Vietnamese cross the border to go to school

by Le Hoang Vu

AN GIANG — Schools in Khanh An Commune, An Phu District, An Giang Province are welcoming hundreds of new Vietnamese-Cambodian students from Kan Dal Province, Cambodia this academic year.

The majority of the students hail from Pec Chay Commune, Koh Thum District, Cambodia, where many ethnic Vietnamese are living.

Khanh An Commune’s Primary School B has more than 600 Vietnamese-Cambodian students, according to principal Nguyen Tan Tai. All of the school’s new first graders are Vietnamese-Cambodian.

Vietnamese-Cambodians made up 60 per cent of Khanh An Commune’s Primary School A’s 930 students, said principal Nguyen Thi Sanh.

According to Le Van Be, Khanh An Secondary School principal, 30 per cent of the 800 new students this year live in Cambodia.

More and more of Khanh An Commune’s student body is Vietnamese-Cambodian because many cannot afford to send their children to schools in Cambodia.

The Vietnamese-Cambodian students’ parents, many of whom are illiterate, also hope their children learn to both read and write their mother tongue.

Thus, many of these overseas Vietnamese cross the border into Viet Nam to take their children to school every day.

Bui Minh Hung of Koh Thum District, Cambodia sells fish at An Giang Province’s Khanh Binh border gate, and brings his child to a Khanh An school every day. After all his stock is sold, he takes his child home at 12 a.m.

Despite a difficult commute, Nguyen Thi Xuan of Koh Thum District, Cambodia still makes her children to go to school in Viet Nam so they would speak Vietnamese.

Educational authorities in An Giang Province are assisting Vietnamese-Cambodian students to go to school by waiving school infrastructure fees and giving gifts.

For preparation of this school year, Khanh An Commune Primary School A gave away 878 packages of school bags and other classroom necessities worth VND100,000 (US$6) each.

Residents at the border also help out the students by ferrying them across the river for free.

Thanks to local authorities and residents’ help, many overseas Vietnamese students have beat the odds to succeed. For example, Le Duy Phuong, Nguyen Van Lanh and Diep Hoai An, all former Vietnamese-Cambodian high school students, have gone on to university.

Danh Thi My Non, a Vietnamese-Cambodian An Phu High School alum, just entered her junior year at An Giang University, said her vice principal Ngo Thai Can.

Nguyen Quang Tuu of Koh Thum District’s Vietnamese Association said many ethnic Vietnamese in Cambodia were happy their children could learn their mother tongue and keep some Vietnamese cultural traits. — VNS
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