Claiming political bias, an official with Royal Phnom Penh Airways has blasted the Council of Ministers for not allowing the airline to schedule lucrative direct flights from Bangkok to Siem Reap, which are now allowed under the open skies policy started by Prime Minister Hun Sen.
“This refusal [to grant us a license] is a violation of the open skies policy—we should have access to the skies just like other local airlines,” the official, who refused to be identified, said.
The Council of Ministers rejected the airline’s request to start direct flights from Bangkok to Siem Reap because Prince Norodom Chakrapong, president of Royal Phnom Penh Airways, is a Funcinpec member while the members of the Council of Ministers—who authorize flights to and from Siem Reap—are mostly CPP members, the official said.
Under the open skies policy, ordered by the prime minister in 1999, international and national airlines can fly directly to Siem Reap instead of through Phnom Penh.
Previously, only Royal Air Cambodge and the Thai-based Bangkok Airways were allowed to fly from Phnom Penh and Bangkok to Siem Reap.
The open skies policy was initiated when the Cambodian tourism industry gained momentum following the factional fighting in 1997.
Denying political bias, government officials say they are waiting for Royal Phnom Penh Airways to deliver the proper documents to the State Secretariat for Civil Aviation before they allow any direct flights, said Seng Vanny, chief of the administration department for the State Secretariat for Civil Aviation.
Seng Vanny said the Council of Ministers has not issued a letter formally denying Royal Phnom Penh Airways the Siem Reap-Bangkok flights and is waiting until the airline registers three airplanes it intends to use for the flights, as well as flight schedules, before granting the license.
“If Royal Phnom Penh Airways wants to fly directly from Bangkok to Siem Reap, then the company needs to register their plane and the proper documents with the Civil Aviation authority,” he said.
Although the airline sent registration documents for its three new planes, the documents were printed in Chinese and, therefore, could not be read by the Council of Ministers, Seng Vanny said. He said he wrote a letter to Prince Chakrapong asking for a translation of the Chinese certificates, but so far has received no response.
Prince Chakrapong refused to comment on this issue.