A Real Cambodia and Cambodia Portrayed by the Press
… At this moment, where are we? I am asking this question because it seems that there is a Cambodia that is real and the other is the one portrayed by the press, in which some people blamed Cambodia to be (a likely) hell. I hope that Excellencies, Lok Chumteavs, Ambassadors of France and the European Union, who are present here with us today, feel that you are in a Cambodia that is real. In foreign press, some wrote, Cambodians themselves included, that Cambodia is not a place desirable to live or visit. We are standing right here to put into official use a new passenger terminal invested by Societe Concessionair de l’Aeroport, with its mother company VINCI.
Open-Sky Policy in Action
Just now, Deputy Prime Minister HE Sok An filed a report relating to progress of the construction. Mr. Xavier Huillard, General Director of VINCI, also had his intervention on this project to you all. In the framework of open-sky, open-land and open-water policies, we really need to have better infrastructure to support the country’s development. I could say that the implementation of the open-sky policy allowed us to adjust agreement (between the Royal Government and company) consecutively, up to six times. Primarily, there was a requirement only to have a fully functioned airport in Phnom Penh and no others. By 1997, we decided to allow direct flight into Siem Reap airport.
It was not our concern which company would lose or gain in that policy as long as it benefits national economy. I could recall that at the time, people in tourist businesses reacted strongly in Phnom Penh to the open-sky policy that allowed direct flight to Siem Reap airport. Later, they all see clearly that our way of doing thing is correct. VINCI then grew from handling the betterment of the Phnom Penh International Airport to Siem Reap province and then to the Preah Sihanouk province too. This is a simplified background of why the French company VINCI has expanded its project from Phnom Penh to the provinces of Siem Reap and Preah Sihanouk. (I reiterate that it) stemmed out of our open-sky policy that allowed direct flight into Siem Reap and Preah Sihanouk provinces.
PPIA Handles Big Flights
I would take this opportune moment to express my sincere appreciation for VINCI. When the world economic downturn and financial crisis approached, Cambodia was so concerned about projects invested by foreign companies, VINCI’s ones included, whether they could implement the projects to its end. VINCI did not let us down. The economic downturn and financial crisis did not hinder VINCI’s activities in development projects for the three airports – Phnom Penh International Airport, and those in Siem Reap and Preah Sihanouk provinces […] PPIA already handled landings of heavy flights, especially when Cambodia chaired ASEAN in 2012, Air Force One of the US President Barack Obama landed safely and stayed.
Were there safety concern, no leader of anyone country would use big airplane and land at PPIA. It is a true Cambodia. It is not a Cambodia portrayed by the press. Lately, before I went for the ASEAN-US Summit in the United States of America, another flight brought the US Secretary of State John Kerry here. PPIA lacks tarmac roads, though. It is not VINCI’s problem. It is the Royal Government’s part for being unable to provide more land area. I became Prime Minister since 1985 and in those days, there would not be a problem of overcrowded anywhere at all. Cambodia was under economic embargo while the UN recognized and allowed the Khmer Rouge to occupy Cambodia’s seat. It was a misery.
Rescued from the regime of genocide, we had had to go through economic embargo. No one cared for investment in Cambodia. (At that time) there would be plenty of land. However, we let people reside until these days that we cannot take back from them. It is a true story of what happened. However, despite lacking road access facility, big flights of leaders of other countries landed safely in PPIA …
From Nil to Over 4 Million Tourists
Today we are putting into official use an achievement invested by Societe Concessionair de l’Aeroport. We are proud with increasing number of tourist arrivals. If there were no tourists, there would not need to build more facilities like this. We have started from nil but in 2015, Cambodia received some 4.7 million tourists. Why I brought this nil figure up? There were not many people living in Phnom Penh. PPIA suffered devastation since the coup on 18 March (1970). In just two days, it will be the anniversary when the Lon Nol clique brought down Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk. It was the beginning of destructive war in Cambodia. I was in my 18 years of age when it all started. Though there were still flights, tourists number went down from before the coup because many areas of Cambodia were already at war.
By 1975 through to 1979, the airport almost closed completely. There were just a few flights landing in Phnom Penh quietly. Later, there were only two airlines landing in Phnom Penh – Vietnam (airline) and Aeroflot from Moscow. (It was because of such slow development) that we did not reserve land for expansion of the airport. Even our reception room was that tiny, there were no guests to receive. However, there are more flights now, in matter of minutes, in Phnom Penh as well as in Siem Reap. Thank to peace, no more war, because of the win-win policy, Cambodia has disposed more tourist destinations, leading to arrival of some 4.7 million of tourists. That calls for expansion of airport and its passenger terminal.
A moment ago, Mr. Xavier Huillard talked about free Wifi. I welcome this move. I hope you make it a successful story. Everyone, myself included when stepping out of the plane, first thing to do was to search for internet access to send news of arrival to family members. With 3G people could also send their pictures with messages. I suggest you make it work well in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Preah Sihanouk provinces. Make sure it works all the time […]
A Message of International Standard Airport
I wish to appreciate efforts made. I have implemented my promise that I made with VINCI in Paris, in presence of the French Ambassador on 25 October. I promised that I would come for the inauguration ceremony. It is an obligation for the Prime Minister to launch the inauguration sending a message to tourists that please come to visit Cambodia because now we have international standard airport invested by French company VINCI and its partners. I thank Deputy Prime Minister HE Sok AN, and his aides, for their efforts. I thank the efforts made by Societe Concessionair de l’Aeroport and VINCI as well as support rendered by the French Government and Cambodian institutions, the Cambodian Civil Aviation also included.
What we need to keep on doing is to provide safety to our airport … Long ago, along the fence there was a huge canal, where buffalos had their baths in. In this airport development project, we then levied it and increased safety for landing. I would urge staff working in the airport – immigration police, custom, etc. to subscribe to disciplinary working manner to make Cambodia an attractive place for tourists. We need to make everyone who came once to come back again, not alone but with family members or friends. We must refrain from actions that would make them feel frustrated and never come back again, from arriving at airports to tourist destinations. If we could do that, we would be able to attract more arrivals than making advertisement on CNN …/.