The land of heroes
Our heroes
Our land
Cambodia Kingdom

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Rebuilding Cambodia

By Weng Aow
General Manager
Angkor Palace Resort

CAMBODIA first became a part of my life in 1997 when I volunteered for a project there for Raffles International.

I went to bring over the pioneer batch of Cambodian hospitality trainees from Phnom Penh to our hotels in Singapore for systematic on-the-job training.

These trainees would eventually form the backbone of the hospitality industry in Cambodia. Back in 1997 when Raffles was preparing for the opening of its two properties in Cambodia, there were hardly any skilled hospitality workers to speak of, given the tragic past of the kingdom.

In 1997, not many foreigners were keen to work in Cambodia. The country was going through political turmoil and there was no stability. Having personally experienced the rough political situation and lawlessness, including the evacuation of foreigners, I felt a calling to be here and a strong desire to be part of the country's rebuilding efforts.

Having been trained as an officer in the SAF, I was grateful that my training came in handy during this crisis.
We in Singapore have been very fortunate to be living in a peaceful environment and this crisis was an eye-opener for me. I do not see myself as just a hotelier but prefer to look at this as a vocation to help the locals improve their lives through imparting skills and knowledge.

Today, I am managing a Cambodian-owned 259-room Angkor Palace Resort & Spa with a staff strength of nearly 300. Called 'The Palace in Siem Reap', it is an authentic Cambodian designed and built resort. The Palace sits on a land area of 11 hectares and comes with its own golf driving range.

The people here have gone through so much political volatility and social unrest. I feel it's my calling to help them regain their lost heritage and pride, and rebuild their homes. The Cambodians are eager to move on and are motivated to improve their lives. Their innate charm and warmth make them natural candidates for the hospitality industry.

In October 2008, the resort embarked on a Responsible Tourism programme which aims to better the lives of the community. These include classroom construction for impoverished villages and training for teachers, purchase of school materials, and toilet and well building projects in the rural areas. We are fortunate to have the support of our owner-cum-architect in carrying out these projects.

As far as I am aware, the number of Singaporeans in Siem Reap is probably less than 20. But in Phnom Penh, there is a Singapore Club called The Buaya Club (I kid you not) with a membership of over a few hundred formed for the purpose of golf. I am now an ardent golf enthusiast and on weekends you will find me at the Angkor Golf Club or practising at the driving range in the Resort. I am happy to play the game with any visiting Singaporean needing a partner in Siem Reap.

As a Singaporean, I have also volunteered Angkor Palace Resort as a rendezvous point for Singaporeans living in Siem Reap in the event of an emergency.

I am not sure where I will be in the long term, but I do think this is a country with lots of opportunities to offer for work or business; and most importantly, a chance to be part of history-making in the positive sense. Against a historic backdrop of monumental temples from one of the most significant eras gone by, one can't help but feel inspired to continue with the noble ideals of the ancient monarchs who once ruled this kingdom.

We invite Singaporeans living overseas or posted abroad to write about life, culture and doing business where you are.
Read more!

Cindy McCain resumes international aid work

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates: Cindy McCain, the wife of the former Republican presidential candidate, resumed her international aid work this week with a stop in Dubai on her way to India and Cambodia to volunteer at maternity hospitals.

McCain, 54, frequently does charity work overseas. The wife of Arizona Senator John McCain is a member of the board of Halo Trust, an international land-mine removal group, and Operation Smile, which provides surgery for children born with cleft palates.

On Tuesday, she toured the World Food Program's warehouse in this Gulf city-state and on Wednesday she gave an interview to Al-Arabiya — the pan-Arab satellite television network that Barack Obama gave his first formal TV interview to as president.

She said she was relieved her husband's long election campaign was over.

"From (a) health aspect, I am very glad it's over," she said. It was "wild and nuts" at times, but also "a remarkable experience to be a contender for the highest office in the land."

She said humanitarian organizations are feeling the pinch of the global economic crisis.

"The crisis will make Americans look at themselves closer. ... I hope it will, because it is always best when you start at home first," she told The Associated Press. "These are hard economic times ... and everyone, including the humanitarian world, is feeling it."

"I hope President Obama, for the good of the U.S., can solve this problem," she added. "It's my job to continue to encourage people to make sure people are cared for around the world."
Read more!