$25 Million To Be Invested in New Nat’l Airline

Cambodian businessmen are planning to put up a $25-million in­vestment in a new national airline, Phnom Penh Chamber of Com­merce President Kith Meng said on Friday.

The group of local tycoons—who are to each pledge $2 million to the project—were led by Kith Meng, owner of CTN and Mobi­Tel, and Sokimex President Sok Kong, during a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Sok An on Wed­­nes­day to discuss the proposal.

If the proposal gets off the ground, it will mark the third time in as many years that investors have sunk money into a Cambo­dian nation­al airline since the closure of the debt-ridden flagship carrier Royal Air Cambodge in 2001.

In July 2003, Cambodian and Aus­tralian-owned Mekong Airlines ceased operating under mounting debts and in August 2004, First Cam­bodia Airlines also ceased operations amid large financial losses.

“If everything goes smoothly, we could be able to operate by 2006,” Kith Meng said. He added that the various unsuccessful attempts by individuals have been learning ex­pri­ences.

“We, the Oknhas, have an idea to establish a national airline aimed at attracting tourists,” Kith Meng said. “If a million tourists are coming now, with a national airline tourists will increase to two million,” he said.

Sok Kong said the Phnom Penh Chamber of Commerce wanted to help the government re-establish a national airline after multiple previous failures, but added that special con­cessions might be needed if the airline is to prosper.

“We have seen that there are different airline companies flying back and forth to our country, but not us,” Sok Kong said. “When government leaders go anywhere, they always hire aircraft from other countries,” he said. “We don’t mind spending $2-to-$5 million each. As long as a national carrier with our national flag can fly to the outside world.”

Kith Meng also suggested that due to a lack of local expertise, Air France or Singapore Airlines might be employed to operate and manage the new airline.

Phav Nydhikun, Societe Con­ces­sion­naire De L’Aeroport sales and development manager, said the pro­posal to cooperate with foreign airlines should be based on economics.

“As long as the foreign management can help to develop in a very profitable manner the national carrier, why not?” he said.

Asked whether the new national carrier might be helped with re­duced landing fees or other assistance at the SCA-operated Phnom Penh and Siem Reap airports, he re­plied: “We support all resident carriers…especially when you’re talk­ing about a new national carrier, I’m wil­ling to support it.”

(Additional reporting by Ethan Plaut)




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