While crossing the border between Cambodia and Thailand by foot, I remembered injustices at border controls going beyond the human dignity. I share a story of xenophia that lowered my belief in basic human decency.
I love to travel and I love seeing different places. I love the freedom of going anywhere I wanna go at any given time. I love having a European passport. I wish everyone had this kind of freedom.
My last week in Indochina (you can read about it here), I had to cross the border between Cambodia and Thailand. I had to fill out a form, but it was no visa application. People from Austria don’t even have to get a visa when visiting Thailand. However, everyone has to cross the border the same way, by foot. Everyone is treated equally: Like a potential criminal. I had to get off the bus about 200 meters before the border and take all my belongings with me while the bus was getting inspected for human trafficking and drug smuggling. Then, I had to carry my luggage via Cambodian dirt roads to the border. Inside the border, ‘foreigners’ like myself had to take the stairs to the first floor, wait a long time, fill out another form, get inspected etc. There aren’t even any restrooms. After that shenanigan, I waited another 30 mins for the bus to return. I felt as if they thought I was an illegal refugee. Hours later I realized that I shouldn’t complain no matter how annoying this process was. I remembered things I’ve witnessed while crossing borders that went beyond human dignity…
I was on a night train somewhere in Europe and the crisis in Syria was in full effect. Armed police officers were on the train. They looked kinda scary but they didn’t care about me. Passengers who looked ‘foreign’, however, were inspected very thoroughly. Some more than once. A couple of people had to leave the train, I don’t know why. In the middle of the night, I had to get up to pee. Also, I wanted to have a smoke at the next train station. In front of the bathroom was standing a man, probably of Asian descent. He was in his underwear, standing in front of two police officers. They woke him up in the middle of the night and didn’t let him put on any clothes. One of the policemen stood guard with a lowered gun. The other one handled a bright flashlight. He lit up the face of the man who looked terrified. I remember him shivering. After having a close look, the police officer turned the beam to his passport, then his face again. The officers mumbled something, checked again and concluded that ‘all these camel drivers look the same’. The suspected man, of course, didn’t understand that. However, he had to leave the train. In his underwear, followed by the policemen. I don’t remember if they even let him get his luggage. I only remember standing at the train station, smoking, while this scene unfolded before my eyes. I wanted to help somehow, but nothing I could possibly do came to mind. I was perplexed and felt sorry for that poor guy. I didn’t even realize that passports were being controlled. No one cared about me. I guess I looked European enough.
I understand that because of recent events, everyone’s on edge and extra careful. But I don’t understand why we have to treat each other so badly. As if being on a train were a privilege. There is no first-class citizen and a second-class refugee. But somehow it makes us feel bigger when we’re enabled to make others feel small. I can’t even put into words how much this angers me. I want to live in a world where everyone can go anywhere they want to. I guess all I’m asking myself is: Borders… what’s up with that?