The closure of Bangkok’s international airport earlier this month cost Cambodia millions of dollars and crippled Thailand’s tourism sector. It also thwarted the pilgrimage to Mecca of nearly 200 Cambodian Muslims.
The pilgrimage, or hajj, is an annual rite for many Muslims, a tenet that the faithful should make the trip to Mecca, a holy city in Saudi Arabia, at least once in a lifetime. It can cost thousands of dollars for travel and accommodation.
“I have never been there before, and now it was canceled,” said Mary Ya, a Cham who missed her chance this year due to delays in Thailand. “Now I have to wait for the next opportunity.”
At least one travel guide said the failure of some Chams to reach Mecca this year was due to the high number of people wanting to go.
“This year I felt a lot of regret,” said Halgi Sakariya Suleu Mana, who has been a travel guide for many years and never seen this kind of problem. “I was not successful with this, not because the Thai airport was closed, but this year there were too many people who wanted to travel.”