SA voted top ‘dream destination’
South Africa has been voted the top destination by members of the world’s largest travel and lifestyle social network, Where Are You Now? (WAYN), in the site’s recent “dream destination competition”.
The country beat Brazil, India, Dubai, Fiji, Turkey and Indonesia with 15 300 votes from members around the world.
A total 78,000 votes were counted for all seven of the destinations. The nominated countries and cities were selected through market research and tracking user engagement on WAYN.
“All seven countries and cities nominated were extremely worthy contenders and dream destinations in their own right,” WAYN co-founder and chief risk officer, Jeremy Touze, said in a statement last week.
American Airlines begins flights to South Korea
UAE relaxes travel restrictions on Canadians
The United Arab Emirates has reinstated a visa waiver for Canadian citizens it withdrew amid a dispute over landing rights more than two years ago, a move suggesting the disagreement may be nearing a resolution.
Canada was one of more than 30 countries, mostly Western, that benefited from a visa waiver the UAE offered to their citizens. But Canadians were told in November 2010 they had to obtain a visa in advance at a cost of as much as $1,000.
Dubai carrier Emirates had been lobbying the Canadian government to boost its thrice-weekly direct flights to Toronto and more Canadian destinations, with support from the UAE government, but failed to gain greater access. Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways had also sought to increase its flights.
The reinstatement of the waiver was announced in a joint statement carried by the official UAE news agency WAM following a meeting on Tuesday between Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird and his UAE counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan.
“Just over a year ago, we set out an agenda between our countries to … facilitate travel requirements to increase business, tourism and joint prosperity for our citizens, by restoring the visa regime,” the statement said.
There was no word in the statement about changes in landing rights, but Emirates said it welcomed the move because it added to the convenience of its passengers.
An Emirates statement added: “We currently operate three flights per week to Toronto and welcome the opportunity to add additional flights to Canada, but this remains a matter between the Canadian and UAE governments.”
Myanmar allows visas for foreign journalists
Myanmar will roll out visas for foreign journalists in its latest push towards liberalization of its heavily censored media.
The three-month visas will allow foreign journalists “unhindered” coverage and allow them to “travel to any part of the country” without prior permission, including its conflict zones.
“Our country is opening up. We have to reduce our previous rules and regulations,” Myint Kyaw, a director at the Ministry of Information, told The Wall Street Jorunal. “By giving a three-month visa, it will allow journalists all over the world enough time to do proper reporting on Myanmar.”
Visas would only be granted on a single-entry basis, according to Ye Htut, a spokesperson for President Thein Sein. Journalists working on documentaries or other long-term projects requiring multiple entries to Myanmar might have to pay additional fees.
Still, the new provisions mark a significant move to cement Myanmar’s transition towards democratization.
For decades, media outlets in Myanmar were subject to grueling scrutiny and censorship while most foreign journalists enter the country pretending to be tourists.
FAA looking to loosen restrictions on e-readers, tablets
The new rules would allow fliers to turn their devices onto airplane mode rather than turn them off, although cellphones would not be covered under the new policy.
Photo: Apple’s iPad tablet (Regis Duvignau/Reuters)
Hotello is a portable space, containing all the necessary elements for a minimal room: a desk, a lamp, a stool, a shelf, a locker.
Hotello consists of a metal structure that supports double curtains (translucent and sound absorbant) as well as all the furniture needed to work and rest.
Designed by Roberto De Luca and Antonio Scarponi.
Hotello will be presented at during Milan design week 2013 at Fabbrica del Vapore from April 9th-14th.
Presidents Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov of Turkmenistan and Emomali Rakhmon of Tajikistan inked the preliminary agreement Wednesday in the Turkmen capital.
The 400-kilometer (250-mile) railroad would link landlocked Afghanistan to a regional transport network, increasing the country’s export potential. It would link the Afghan town of Akina-Andhoi, about 650 kilometers (400 miles) northwest of Kabul to Atamyrat in Turkmenistan and Pyandzh in Tajikistan.
The construction of the new railway is set to start in July in Turkmenistan. Turkmen workers will also build the Afghan segment of the railway.
Iraq Resumes Flights to Kuwait After 22-Year Halt
An Iraqi Airways flight landed in Kuwait on Wednesday for the first time since Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of the tiny emirate as the neighboring states try to repair more than two decades of strained relations.
Government ministers from both countries were on hand for the ceremonial landing at the international airport in Kuwait City shortly before noon.
Iraq’s Transportation Ministry spokesman, Karim al-Nouri, said the flight will open “important horizons for cooperation based on brotherhood” with Kuwait. Passenger demand will determine the number of flights in the future, he said.
In January, Kuwait’s parliament approved a deal under which Baghdad will pay $500 million in compensation to Kuwait’s national carrier for damages caused during the Iraqi occupation. The accord seeks to end a long-running dispute over reparations for Kuwait Airways.
The disagreement had centered on Kuwait’s accusations that Saddam’s regime stole 10 airplanes and millions of dollars’ worth of equipment and spare parts during the invasion. Kuwait earlier wanted $1.2 billion in reparations, which Iraq’s postwar leaders resisted.
The chairman and managing director of Kuwait Airways Corp., Sami al-Nisf, said all outstanding issues between the Kuwaiti and Iraqi carriers have been completely and fully resolved, Kuwait’s state news agency reported. He suggested that there could be interest in Kuwait resuming flights to Baghdad, but an aircraft shortage hinders those plans for now.
Although the airline dispute appears settled, there are other disputes over war reparations between the two nations.
Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez set off on a three-month, dozen-nation world tour Sunday, after a new law eliminated the exit permit that had been required of islanders for five decades and was denied to her around 20 times in recent years.
Pulling a blue rolling suitcase emblazoned with the logo of her “Generation Y” blog at Havana’s international airport, Sanchez showed reporters her brand new passport with a fresh U.S. double-entry visa, valid for six months. She paid the $25 airport tax, disappeared beyond the passport control checkpoint and said via Twitter that the only thing left was to get on the plane.
“My name has not been called over the loudspeakers, they have not taken me to a room to strip me or give me a warning,” she tweeted from the waiting lounge. “Everything is going well.”
Sanchez is one of Cuba’s most prominent dissidents, though her blog is not widely followed on the island. Whether authorities would allow her to go abroad was seen as a key test of the travel law, one of the most significant reforms of President Raul Castro’s ongoing plan to refashion some elements of the economy, government, and society.
Ted Henken, a professor of Latin American studies at New York’s Baruch College who studies social media and civil society in Cuba, said letting prominent dissidents travel is a “calculated risk” in which the government could figure good public relations outweigh the downside of people such as Sanchez using their bully pulpit to bash the Communist system abroad. Henken has been closely involved in arranging Sanchez’s U.S. meetings and appearances.
“The fact that Yoani is now flying to … Brazil is going to be something that is written about as a sign of something changing,” Henken said. “And that’s positive.”
The law, which took effect Jan. 14, ended the much-loathed exit visa requirement, which was routinely withheld from dissidents, doctors, military officers and other sensitive individuals. The reform also simplified other bureaucratic procedures that had made overseas travel complicated for Cubans.
However it contained a clause allowing the state to deny passports in certain cases including for reasons of national security, and it had not been clear whether dissidents would be allowed to travel.
So far the results have been mixed.
Sanchez was granted a passport, as was the leader of the Ladies in White protest group. Fellow dissident Eliecer Avila went to Sweden, and Rosa Maria Paya, daughter of the late dissident Oswaldo Paya, flew to Spain on Saturday. Hunger striker Guillermo Farinas has been told he can travel.
But passports were denied to two other government opponents, one who had a criminal sentence against him still pending and another who said she was turned down for belonging to “counterrevolutionary groups.”
Cuban authorities consider the small community of outspoken dissidents to be traitorous “mercenaries” who accept foreign money to try to undermine the government.
But some of them are now free to travel overseas to collect human rights prizes, take part in conferences and no doubt denounce President Raul Castro’s government in public forums.
“She’s going to take advantage of any space that the government cedes to occupy that space and to push for greater civil liberties and political freedoms,” as well as continue lobbying for travel by those dissidents who were denied passports, Henken said. “She’s clearly going to be beating that drum for the next three months.”
At the airport Sunday, a smiling Sanchez told reporters she was optimistic while leaving for her trip and saying goodbye to her husband and 14-year-old son.
“I bring with me a message of hope,” she said. “I am not naive. I realize there are problems, but I believe in the future and I have great hope for the people.”
“This will be like ‘Around the World in 80 Days,’” Sanchez added. “I don’t want to be gone longer because I don’t like to be apart from my family. … Although I still haven’t left, I’m already looking forward to my return.”
Sanchez was heading first to Brazil for the screening of a documentary film in which she appears, with a layover in Panama City where she said she was excited to try out the airport’s free Wi-Fi.
The tour includes several stops in the United States, with appearances at universities in New York and other academic programs, visits to Google and Twitter offices and time with family in Florida.
She’ll also travel to the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Peru, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland, with potential trips to Argentina and Chile in the works.
“I don’t have any fears about returning. Some friends worry that they won’t let me return, but I don’t think so because that would be a grave violation of the law,” Sanchez said.
New ‘Quiet Zones’ on GO trains will offer escape from our noisy, frenetic lives
Silence, we know, is golden. It is also good for us. And not just for the soul.
Studies have shown that noise can do nasty things to a human being. It raises stress levels, disrupts sleep patterns, complicates communication, increases the risk of heart attack, inhibits a child’s capacity to learn and, for all you hipsters out there with your headphones cranked up to 10, can damage your hearing.
Not silence, though.
“Often silence feels good on a pure animal level,” author George Prochnik aptly wrote in a New York Times opinion piece on “silence awareness.”
“If you have the means, you buy your luxury silence in the form of spa time … the affluent pay for boutique silence because, like silk on the flesh and wine on the palate, silence can be a kind of sensory delight.”
The opposite of that delight, of lying on a massage table and getting your muscles kneaded and rubbed in a room full of quiet and scented vanilla candles is, arguably, the experience hundreds of thousands of Canadian schleps undergo twice a day, five days a week, when they step aboard a commuter train that whisks them to an office where they grind out a workday before climbing back aboard the commuter train that delivers them home.
And they will tell you it is a train full of loud talkers wielding cell phones, full of gadgets and whirring gizmos, full of 21st century noise; a constant din in an enclosed space where human guinea pigs of all stripes are shoved together in a moving laboratory and then asked to get along for as far as they may travel.
It is not always pretty. But it is always noisy.
Beginning Feb. 11 a metaphorically new train will be hitting the tracks in the Greater Toronto Area, where GO Transit, in response to a growing avalanche of rider feedback begging for a little peace and quiet, will launch a three-month pilot project where the upper level of its three-level trains on its Barrie to Toronto route will be designated “Quiet Zones.”
There will be “Quiet Zone” signs, no cellphone chatter permitted, no across-the-aisle talkers welcomed and no headphones turned to maximum decibel. Just people, theoretically being quiet, and doing what quiet people do, such as read, or tap away on a work assignment, sit quietly with their thoughts — or sleep.
The Quiet Zone is the latest shushing in a wider Quiet Revolution, an international blowback against the noisy times in which we live that has already taken root in commuter trains in the U.K., Sweden, France — where the quiet zones are labeled Zen zones, naturally — and across the United States in cities like Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia.
Over 70% of GO riders surveyed answered that they were ready for a silent zone. But then how much quiet is too much? New Jersey Transit expanded its quiet zone program two years ago. Riders struggled to adjust, while the conductors were reportedly caught in the middle of the shushing wars between the merely quiet and the monkishly quiet.
The West Coast Express, a commuter train serving B.C.’s Lower Mainland, discontinued its “Snoozer Cruiser” car in 2006 because of a burbling feud between its growing ridership and the designated quiet space consisting of 75 seats — where the lights were turned down low and some quiet extremists basically showed up at the station in their jammies looking to snooze.
GO’s Quiet Zone is not a designated sleeper car. It is a quiet space. And if there are conflicts between riders there is not going to be a conductor handy to play referee. Commuters are being asked to self-police. Veteran GO commuter Cindy Smith, a quality control specialist at a financial institution in Toronto who blogs about commuter life in her spare time, welcomes the experiment.
She has seen every commuter archetype up close over the years: the business guy, blabbing on his phone about some REALLY IMPORTANT deal, the kid with the headphones blaring, the helicopter mom calling home at the crack of 7 a.m. urging a wayward teenager to get out of bed.
“The helicopter moms are the worst,” says the five-days-a-week train commuter.
“I love these Moms, god bless them. But there is nothing worse than it being 7 a.m. in the morning and you are sitting next to them and it is, ‘Hi. Are you up yet? I am going to call you back in two minutes — and you better be up. Did you find your jeans? They are on the dryer. Yes. Your jeans are on the dryer. Just go and look on the dryer.’
“It would be so awesome to have a place to get away from the helicopter moms.”
Awesome to find that most elusive thing in our frenetic lives: a little slice of quiet, in an otherwise hectic day.
TSA to remove controversial X-ray scanners
The government’s controversial full-body scanners that create almost nude images of travelers will be gone from airport checkpoints by June, officials said Friday.
The scanners have been used to spot explosives and other non-metallic items under clothing, but civil libertarians said the devices subjected travelers to “a virtual strip search.”
Last year, the Transportation Security Administration began replacing the scanners to protect the privacy of travelers.
The new technology displays a generic gingerbread man-style cutout on a computer screen, instead of naked images. Software spots potential threat items and simply highlights questionable areas for a focused pat-down.
Congress gave the company that manufactures the old machines, Rapiscan, until June 1 to modify them with the new software.But the firm told the TSA this week it could not meet the deadline.“It’s a good riddance, whatever reason they have for taking them out,” said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union. “These machines always violated Americans’ privacy norms.”
Each of the machines costs abut $175,000, according to the Congressional Research Service.
The TSA flooded airports with body scanners after the failed Christmas Day 2009 “underwear bomb” plot, in which an attacker tried to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner with a device that got past airport metal detectors.
Over the past year the agency phased out the controversial machines at LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark airports and replaced them the more discreet technology.
The TSA will remove the remaining 174 Rapiscan machines from 30 airports by June 1.
Norway: World’s first electric car ferry recharges in 10 minutes
The world’s first battery electric car ferry is under development in Norway. It’s capable of carrying 120 cars and 360 passengers, and it can fully recharge in just 10 minutes.
Called ZeroCat, the 260-foot ferry will enter passenger service in 2015 on a route between Lavik and Oppedal. The ferry’s electric powertrain was designed by Norwegian shipyard Fjellstrand with battery technology from Siemens, and it will be run by ferry operator Norled.
Instead of a 2,000-hp diesel engine — which powers the current ferry and sucks up over 264,000 gallons of fuel each year — ZeroCat features an 800 kW battery that weighs 11 tons and drives two screws. Though the battery is quite heavy, the ship only weighs half as much as a conventional catamaran ferry, thanks to twin hulls made of aluminum. Those hulls are a slim design, which further increases efficiency, with Siemens estimating the ferry will need only 400 kW to cruise at 10 knots.
One design requirement of the ZeroCat is that it can be recharged in between crossings. That only gives Norled about 10 minutes to get the batteries fully charged, which would require too much of the electrical grids (not to mention the cables) in either Lavik or Oppedal. To solve that issue, high-capacity batteries have been installed at each port. Those batteries will slowly recharge while the ship is crossing, and then provide a quick “dump charge” while the ship is loading and unloading passengers and cars.
According to Siemens, ZeroCat could eliminate nearly 3,000 tons of CO2 emissions. Though it’s only one ferry, it’s an important step for Norway – a country where ferries are absolutely necessary for moving people and freight across short stretches of water, and a country that has made numerous public commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Despite its status as a major oil and gas exporter, nearly all of Norway’s domestic electricity comes from hydropower, so battery-electric ferries offer a clear environmental benefit.
ZeroCat is expected to be in service with Norled at least through 2025. Siemens said that in the near future, it will be possible to replace any diesel-powered car ferry with an electric model as long as the crossing is less than a half hour.
Cubans eager to try new travel rules
Like many Cubans, 16-year-old Ana Liliam Garcia (above) is excited at the thought of seeing the world beyond this Communist-run island smaller than the state of Pennsylvania.
Once an impossibility, today she dreams of meeting several relatives in Florida — and maybe even Mickey Mouse.
“My cousins and my uncles, they’re all in Miami,” Garcia said, her eyes lighting up as she talked about a new law taking effect Monday that will let most islanders travel abroad without seeking government permission or paying for costly exit visas. “I would like to see Disneyland in the United States. I’ll be able to travel!”
The overhaul of Cuba’s decades-old migratory law, announced three months ago, eliminates the much-detested exit visa known as the “white card” and is perhaps the most highly anticipated of a series of reforms initiated under President Raul Castro.
Observers predict it will result in only a modest initial increase in trips by Cubans, who must still get entry visas to travel to most countries, including the United States. And critics note that the law includes a “national security” clause that could be used to bar exits by government opponents, skilled workers and those privy to sensitive information.
But if applied evenhandedly, the opening would eliminate one of the biggest human rights criticisms leveled against a country that has long controlled who can leave, leading opponents to call Cuba an island prison.
“What’s important about it is people see this as a symbolic step of some importance more than a substantive one,” said Geoff Thale, a Cuba analyst at the Washington Office on Latin America think tank. “It symbolizes the end of the state intruding in the same way it used to in people’s regular lives.”
The new law has a number of concrete provisions that will benefit many Cubans.
For Garcia, it means a first chance to travel since under the previous rules most minors could only leave Cuba if they planned to do so permanently.
As a dual Spanish citizen, something she and tens of thousands of other Cubans have attained through Spanish ancestry, the teen qualifies to visit Florida without having to worry about a U.S. visa.
Relatives there will help out with airfare and other costs her parents can’t afford.
“My aunts and uncles are overjoyed,” Garcia said. “In my dreams, I want to see the whole world … but I always would want to return to where my family and friends are.”
The measure greatly simplifies travel by scrapping the exit visa, and doing away with the requirement that Cubans provide a letter of invitation from someone in their country of destination.
In the past nearly all exit visa applications were granted, and relatively quickly, but the costs were prohibitive to many in this country where wages average $20 a month. Between various application and notarization fees, it ran to $300 or more a trip, and some Cubans paid an additional $200 to $300 to people overseas for invitation letters.
Now, islanders need only make a one-time $100 application for a passport, renewable for $20 every two years.
The new rules also raise from 11 to 24 months the amount of time Cubans can be gone without losing residency rights. That will make it easier for people to work or study abroad longer while maintaining ties to the island, potentially sending money to relatives or even returning with hard-currency earnings to invest in newly legalized small businesses or cooperatives.
“It will create more of a revolving door instead of an escape hatch,” said Ted Henken, a professor of Latin American studies at Baruch College in New York. “They’re removing another thorn in the crown of thorns that a lot of Cubans have to wear.”
The migratory law is a PR coup for the Cuban government, which bristles at outside criticism of its human rights record. It also gives Havana ammunition in its crusade against the 50-year U.S. embargo, which bars most Americans from traveling to the island.
“Cuba permits its citizens to come travel here. We don’t permit our citizens to travel there without a regulatory framework that is probably stricter than what the Cubans are going to adopt,” Thale said. “So it does look hypocritical.”
The law also has implications for U.S. policy, which allows Cubans who reach American soil to stay and grants them residency rights after just a year. The Cuban law’s 24-month window means there will be a one-year overlap during which immigrants can establish U.S. residency without losing their right of return, potentially spawning a new class of binationals able to move back and forth seamlessly between the two countries.
The stated aim of the United States’ Cuban Adjustment Act is to provide refuge for those fleeing oppression, not easy citizenship for those who wish to straddle both worlds, and some Cuban-American lawmakers have already talked of revisiting the policy.
As with many things in Cuba, the effect of the reform will come down to how it is implemented.
A key article gives authorities the right to deny passports in some cases, including people facing criminal investigation, those with outstanding debts or for “reasons of Defense and National Security.”
The latter provision has widely been interpreted to mean that people in strategic professions, such as military officers, athletes or government figures with access to sensitive information, could be turned down just as they were in the past.
One litmus test will be how Cuba handles dissidents, who are officially considered traitors and are routinely denied travel permission.
Anti-government blogger Yoani Sanchez, who has been barred from leaving at least 19 times, has said state security agents told her in the past she could only leave if it was for good.
“My suitcase is still packed for a trip WITH RETURN!” she tweeted recently. “Will I be allowed to go?”
Berta Soler, a leader of the opposition group the Ladies in White, also said she plans to test the law. If successful, she hopes to finally travel to Strasbourg, France, to receive the European Union’s 2005 Sakharov human rights prize.
But dissidents are skeptical their situation will change.
“I think the migratory law is a way of creating the illusion of an opening in the eyes of the international community so Cuba is not criticized so much,” said Guillermo Farinas, another Sakharov winner who was turned down for an exit visa in 2006, 2007 and 2010.
There are at least some indications that authorities may be more open to travel in sensitive cases.
This week word emerged of a Health Ministry directive saying doctors are to be treated like all other citizens in their travel requests. The news came as a surprise because health care workers are among those closely guarded to prevent “brain drain” of skilled workers trained at great cost under Cuba’s socialist system. It was widely presumed that doctors would fall under the “national security” clause.
That should make life easier for people like Pedro Salazar, a 45-year-old industrial designer. He and his wife, Noelis Rodriguez, have been granted U.S. family-reunification immigrant visas, but have been waiting for Rodriguez, an epidemiologist, to be cleared to leave.
“I’m a professional. What does it matter if I live here or elsewhere?” Salazar said on a recent day outside a migration office. “They educate professionals for free, yes, it’s true. But then I spent two years doing social service.”
Analysts say islanders will likely not be flocking en masse to the Grand Canyon or the French Riviera anytime soon.
Securing entry visas to Europe or the United States can be difficult for citizens of any developing nation. And low salaries mean millions of Cubans will be priced out.
But experts say more and more islanders will be able to see the outside world, something likely to fuel a demand for more change.
“The new migratory policy is an incentive for (further) reform in politics and the economy,” said Arturo Lopez-Levy, a Cuban-born economist at the University of Denver. “The right to travel is a multiplier of rights.”
2012 was safest year ever to travel by plane, figures show
The number of fatal crashes in 2012 and the number of people killed in those crashes fell sharply compared with 2011.
And the fatal accident rate of one per 2.5 million flights made 2012 the safest year on record and almost twice as safe as 2011, flight advisory service Ascend said.
The figures, which relate to airliner safety, showed that there were 15 plane crashes involving deaths in 2012 compared with 25 last year.
The number of people killed in fatal accident crashes this year was 362 compared with 403 last year.
Nearly three quarters of the deaths came in two incidents this year.
A total of 127 people were killed when a Bhoja Air Boeing 737 crashed near Islamabad airport in Pakistan on April 20.
Then on June 6, a total of 153 people, plus 10 on the ground, died when a DANA Air plane crashed on approach to Lagos airport in Nigeria.
Ascend said the passenger death rate for the last five years was about one per 6.1 million passengers carried, while for the period 2000 to 2009 the rate was one per 3.7 million and for the 1990s it was one per 1.8 million.
Insurance claims for loss of airliners in 2012 are around 980 million dollars (about £612 million) - the lowest level since 1991.
Paul Hayes, head of safety at Ascend, said: ”2012 does not represent a new norm for the world airlines.
”Nonetheless, airline fatal accident rates have been steadily improving and on average, operations are now twice as safe as they were 15 years ago. About 335 fewer passengers and crew were killed each year in the last decade than during the 1990s.”
Thailand and Cambodia have agreed to jointly develop connectivity and tourism in order to facilitate the travel of tourists visiting both countries.
They have announced the implementation of the ACMECS single visa, effective on 27 December 2012. ACMECS stands for the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy. Member countries include Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.
The announcement on the ACMECS single visa was made at the end of the Eighth Meeting of the Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation between the Kingdom of Thailand and the Kingdom of Cambodia, held at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Bangkok on 25-26 December 2012. The meeting was co-chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, Mr. Surapong Tovichakchaikul, and the Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr. Hor Namhong.
With the implementation of the single visa agreement, tourists from 35 countries will be allowed to obtain one visa to visit both Thailand and Cambodia and stay in Thailand up to 60 days and in Cambodia up to 30 days.
The meeting was told that the State Railway of Thailand is ready to support the construction of a railway linking Khlong Luek in Aranyaprathet, Sa Kaeo province, with Poi Pet in Cambodia. The railway will facilitate the increasing goods transportation and cross-border trade and travel in the area. The Neighboring Countries Economic Development Cooperation Agency will also support a feasibility study of developing Route 48, which connects with the Southern Coastal Corridor in Cambodia.
The meeting approved the opening of a border trade checkpoint at Ban Non Makmun in Sa Kaeo province, opposite Banteay Meanchey province in Cambodia. This border checkpoint will serve as a channel to promote cross-border trade and people-to-people contact.
Both Thailand and Cambodia agreed on the management plan for the opening of a new permanent border checkpoint at Ban Nong Ian in Sa Kaeo province, opposite Stung Bot in Cambodia. The plan includes the construction of a checkpoint office to facilitate goods transportation to cope with growing border trade and investment.
The meeting also discussed ways to ease the rosewood smuggling problem along the border. It agreed to create a communication channel between the relevant agencies of both countries to tackle and prevent the problem.
Thailand and Cambodia agreed to increase bilateral trade target of 30 percent between 2012 and 2017. On this occasion, Mr. Hor Namhong paid a courtesy call on Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, as well. They also discussed the Thai-Cambodian Joint Cabinet Retreat, to be held in the first half of 2013.