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Friday, November 23, 2007

Cambodia to form new national flag carrier with Indonesian firms

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP): The Cambodian government signed a joint venture agreement with two Indonesian companies Friday to form a new national airline to tap the country's growing tourism industry.

The new airline, which has yet to be named, is expected to begin flying in six months, the partners said.

Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An signed a memorandum of understanding for the joint venture with officials from two Indonesia-based companies, the Rajawali Group and PT Ancora International.

"We will create an airline the country will be proud of,'' he said.

The new airline will be Cambodia's national flag carrier, its first since tough competition and mismanagement forced Royal Air Cambodge to shut down over five years ago. Air travel to and from Cambodia is currently dominated by foreign-owned airlines.

The Indonesian partners' businesses include cigarettes, cement, telecommunications, hotels, resorts, extractive minerals and airlines, a joint statement said.

The government will hold a 51 percent share in the new venture and its partners 49 percent, it said.

But since the two foreign firms are responsible for providing the capital for creating the new airline, they are entitled to total 70 percent of potential profit while the remaining 30 percent will go to the government, the statement added.

Peter Sondakh, chairman and CEO of Rajawali Group, declined to discuss other financial details of the new airline when asked by reporters.

But he said it will operate with "better aircraft and better service'' to compete with foreign airlines.

"We envisage more and more travelers coming to Cambodia, and the new national carrier will become indispensable for the tourism market,'' said Vichit Ith, managing director of PT Ancora International.

Cambodia received 1.4 million visitors between January and September this year, up nearly 19 percent from the same period of 2006, according to statistics of the Tourism Ministry, which has also forecast that total tourist arrivals this year will exceed last year's 1.7 million.

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5 Singaporeans missing after festival boat capsizes in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) - Five Singaporeans were missing after the boat they used to compete in a traditional Cambodian festival capsized Friday, officials said.

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith, who is also the chief Cambodian government spokesman, said the boat hit a swirling current in the Tonle Sap river.

He said the boat had just finished the race and was towed to a peer in the river, which flows through the capital, Phnom Penh.

A search for the missing was hampered by darkness, he said.

Mom Sitha, a municipal immigration police officer, said there were 23 Singaporeans on the boat when it capsized and 18 were rescued.

"At the peer, they asked the tow boat to untie the rope to let them go on rowing for leisure. They hit a swirling spot, and the boat capsized," said Chea Sokhom, a member of the festival organizing committee.

He said some of the Singaporeans were not wearing life jackets.

Nearby police boats managed to rescue most of the Singaporeans, he added.

Singapore Embassy officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Singaporean team was among eight teams from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations that took part in the event, he said. ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
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23-11-2007: Muhibbah rides on Cambodia’s tourism boom

ALL of Muhibbah Engineering’s (RM3.48) divisions — construction, cranes, shipyards and the Cambodian airports — are enjoying strong double-digit growth rates and a favourable operating outlook, as we have noted in our previous update. Its success in clinching new contracts is testament to its reputation, competence and competitive advantage.

Today, we take a look at its Cambodian operations, which are enjoying robust growth as the country undergoes a major tourism boom. Growth will be further anchored by expansion plans in the Siem Reap airport and the opening of a third airport in Sihanoukville in mid-2008. We will take a closer look at its other divisions next week.

Robust growth at airports
Muhibbah’s Cambodian airport operations are held by 30%-owned Societe Concessionaire des Aeroports (SCA). The remaining 70% is held by French construction conglomerate Vinci.

SCA was awarded the concession for the international airport in Phnom Penh in 1995 and Siem Reap in 2001. Both concessions were originally scheduled to end in 2020, but have since been extended to 2040 following the award in 2006 of a third international airport, in Sihanoukville.

The airport operations are enjoying robust growth, reflecting the increasing popularity of Cambodia as a tourist attraction with new direct flights, low-cost flights, and the increasing popularity of the world-famous Angkor Wat temples, a Unesco World Heritage site.

For the first six months of 2007, international passenger arrivals at the two airports rose a hefty 36% year-on-year (y-o-y) from 1.25 million in 1H2006 to 1.69 million passengers in 1H2007. This was propelled by the Siem Reap airport, where international passenger arrivals surged 41% y-o-y from 640,000 to 902,000. Arrivals at the Phnom Penh airport rose 30% from 605,000 to 787,000.

International passenger arrivals rose 26% for the two Cambodian airports last year. Arrivals in 2006 totalled 2.683 million, compared with 2.121 million in 2005. In 2006, international passenger arrivals at the Siem Reap airport surged 31% to 1.36 million, while Phnom Penh airport arrivals rose 22% to 1.323 million.

The Siem Reap airport is shaping up to be among the world’s fastest growing airports — albeit from a low base. In 2006, its passenger arrival growth of 31% eclipsed that of global passenger growth of 4.9% and an average 9.7% growth for passenger arrivals at other Asian airports.

Airport expansion plans
To cope with rising passenger traffic, there are plans to expand the Siem Reap airport — whose new international terminal was opened just in August 2006. The terminal was built to handle up to two million passengers per year, but passenger arrivals are expected to top that level by next year.

Expansion plans will cost fairly little as the airport terminal is essentially arranged in resort-style single-storey modular structures centred around courtyards. Additional modular structures can be added to the existing ones at very low costs and without disrupting the existing structures or operations.

Meanwhile, the Sihanoukville International Airport, its third airport concession, is expected to open in mid-2008. The old terminal has been kept intact and renovated, while works are ongoing to expand the runway to cater for regional flights. As of mid-2007, US$16 million (RM54 million) has been invested in the airport.

Sihanoukville is Cambodia’s only deep-sea port and a major beach resort town. It houses many of Cambodia’s industries as well as an emerging oil and gas industry in the Gulf of Thailand. With enhanced air transportation links, Sihanoukville will be promoted as a major beach resort and industry base.

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Cambodia, Viet Nam, Laos help drug users kick the habit

PHNOM PENH – Cambodia, Viet Nam and Laos have held joint talks to strengthen services for intravenous drug users, hoping to increase HIV/AIDS prevention and tackle the other socio – economic impacts of the issue, local media reported yesterday.

The first project advisory committee meeting of the talks, organised by the Swedish International Development Co-operation Agency (SIDA), was held here on Tuesday and presided over by Sar Kheng, Cambodian Interior Minister and the president of the National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD).

The meeting was organised as part of a Sida project to be implemented through the World Health Organisation and the two-year project will be launched this year in Cambodia, Viet Nam and Laos, NACD’s General Secretary Lou Raminhe was quoted by the Cambodian-language newspaper the Kampuchea Thmey as saying.

Cambodia is facing difficulties in establishing treatment and rehabilitation centres and the number of drug users is on the rise, he said, adding that Cambodia has yet to find the appropriate means to treat drug addicts.

"SIDA could help the Ministry of Health to train ministry officials and development partners on the establishment of a pilot project on the treatment of (drug users) with the use of methadone, " said Bun Heng, NACD deputy general secretary and also secretary of state for Health ministry.
In response to Cambodia’s drug challenges, Sar Kheng said that Cambodia has issued mechanisms, strategic and action plans with support from development partners, and the government has established provincial and municipal drug inspection committees, treatment and rehabilitation teams.

"I hope that members of project advisory committee of the three countries will hold a comprehensive discussion and develop an appropriate action plan in line with the legal framework of each country," He noted.

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