On the occasion of inaugurating the Sokha Hotel in the city of Siemreap, Samdech Hun Sen appreciates the local companies in taking investment challenges, tourist sectoral development, peace and stability with the national reconciliation at the core in relation to the increase of facilities and tourist arrival. Samdech Prime Minister also draws attention on concerned institutions on developing local supply for demands in the hotels.
… This is another achievement that indicates the growth of a local company. As always the Royal Government of Cambodia wishes to see the strength of the local companies as a whole. Having said so, I did not mean to discriminate against foreign companies but as a nation we also want to see local companies becoming strong too. Whatever risk they may take, the local companies would not run away from its own country. The five-star Sokha Hotel which was built at the cost of 34 million US dollars will offer jobs to about 4000 people. I am here today, one part because I want to bestow the Hotel with my honor but also to talk about some of the issues concerning developing tourism, and those relating to the province of Siemreap itself.
… One may pose a question as to why there are so many new big hotels in Siemreap? After the Khmer Rouge’s time, there were only two hotels left – the Grand Hotel and Apsara. A hotel before Angkor was in ruin. We may doubt as to why in 1970 they could build a hotel right before the Angkor complex, but when we built a hotel in Siemreap we got criticized. I used to say that Phnom Penh in those days were Boeung (lake) Prolit, Boeung Reangh, etc. Where have they gone then? They have been filled in the past. Lakes in my time were being filled for building houses and hotels, schools, hospitals. Why on earth we are blamed for doing so now? I have been requested to issue a sub-decree to move everything in 300 meters on either side of the national road 6 – which would take away the Royal Residence, hotels, people’s homes, etc. I refrain myself from signing such a sun-decree. I understand the concept of development, but being too conservative would not be helpful anyway.
… Why have we crawled from two hotels to 82 hotels, and even hundreds of them? First of all we should take a look at the value of national reconciliation and peace. It is a very important factor in any country. Without peace there can be no development. Therefore, we have to take care of peace and national reconciliation that we have so far achieved, with the Cambodian People’s Party and Funcinpec at its core. The win-win policy brought about abolishing of internal boundaries leading to national integration. Secondly, we have this policy of open sky, and I wish all people who hastily evaluate and conclude without seeing the result to see for what we have achieved from it. HE Goh Chok Tong said once that if I were Samdech Hun Sen I would get Angkor Watt as an objective. And now we have so many direct flights here and therefore leading to many guests as well.
… When the Sihanoukville airport is ready, we will allow direct flights from foreign countries as well, because then hotels in Sihanoukville will benefit from increased number of visitors. The third point that is also very important is the fact that local companies are taking the challenge in investment. Twenty six years ago we were at the brink of death threat from Pol Pot. On December 2, having taken control of some of the places, the army of the National United Front for Salvation of Kampuchea, backed by the Vietnamese voluntary forces, were on their march. Now in 27 years, thanks to good policies, we have brought our economy to this scale. It is also important to see that our private sectors have been able to mobilize in making all this happen. While paying attention to foreign tourists, we should not neglect the importance of local tourists.
… As of now we have received 1,251,860 tourists, as of November this year, we have an increase in visitors of 33.61%. Of this number, 759,511 visitors arrived by air or 60.67% of the total number of visitors. According to estimates of the Ministry of Tourism, the number would increase to 1,350,000 tourists. Again talking about more tourists coming to Cambodia, it is worth mentioning the fact that the country has peace and stability, social order, etc. If we were to have problems regarding terrorist activities, etc. the number will be down. In addition to tourist police, we have been successful in preventing the spread of SARS and bird flu from endangering and infiltrating into the tourist areas.
… In our national anti-terrorist strategy we have listed a number of actions, where tourist targets – Phnom Penh, Siemreap, Sihanoukville – will be placed as a high priority areas. I am glad to have learned that when a visitor misplaced his/her passport, our police brought it to him/her. I beg that we continue with this good gesture. Now that we have so many five-star hotels here and I may have a chance of staying in one for the ASEAN summit. I do not mean to run a campaign today, but if CPP were to be re-elected, and I would not believe that CPP would lose because of its good work and behaviors. I will stand in the 2008 elections. In 2011, we will chair ASEAN once again, and since I chaired the one of the ASEAN summit in Phnom Penh, I would choose to do so for the second turn in Siemreap.
… We should also remember that they all come to Siemreap because of what our ancestors have inherited us – Angkor Wat and countless beautiful temples. It is an invaluable heritage for us all – a precondition to other development. As far as tourism is concerned, it has given us various favorable conditions for development in what we say tourism for poverty reduction. We should think of making tourism as a locomotive among many others for our economic growth. To attract tourists we have to first ensure peace, stability and social order. Second, we have to refrain from making tourists saying never to return. With regard to incidents at the Poi Pet border gate, I have decided to place HE Hok Lundy in the chairmanship of the special commission for the coordination and facilitation of tourist affairs, including necessary officials as their members to take care of the problem.
… Today the Cambodia Daily runs an article about impression of some tourists complaining about overcharging price for a visa. If the incident is proven to be true and is connected to our embassy in Hanoi and Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City and also possibly the embassy in Laos, I would not hesitate to remove them. Embassies and Consulates charges higher than the officially set price will be recalled in 24 hours. Their actions discredit the Royal Government of Cambodia.
… As far as infrastructural development in the provincial town of Siemreap is concerned, I order for the construction of the road around the old market of Siemreap, while the four Kilometer road to the airport will be built with the Apasara Authority’s down payment of one million dollars and I would recommend that HE Sieng Nam look after these development on my behalf. Now I would like to urge the city of Siemreap and hotels to think of allowing our people to participate in supplying to tourist sector. I think it is a good thing if hotels could go into contracts of supply with local people. In ACMECS meeting we talked about what they called contract farming and I think this is good for taking further in practical term. We also have to think about green belt around the city and the same could also be considered for Phnom Penh and the town of Sihanoukville.
… Agriculture should also help in this matter, especially in farming free of chemical inputs. When our people could produce and sell these vegetables and animals to local markets, it is then comparatively good as exports. This will eventually lead to economic growth.