An international animal-rights organization has urged Prime Minister Hun Sen to prevent the US-based fast-food chain KFC from opening in Cambodia, claiming that the fried chicken outlets threaten Cambodian culture, people’s health and lead to animal abuse.
In a letter to Hun Sen dated Tuesday, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wrote that tourists do not come to Cambodia to eat at international fast-food chains.
Such outlets “erode culture, as they make one country resemble every other country,” PETA Asia-Pacific Director Jason Baker wrote in the letter to the prime minister.
The intensive farming required to supply KFC outlets would also increase the risks of food-born diseases caused by salmonella and E coli and the likelihood of a bird-flu epidemic, Baker wrote.
“We hope you will act to protect Cambodia’s health and culture by refusing to allow KFC and the abusive farming practices it perpetuates from entering the country,” he wrote.
“The company’s suppliers have been documented abusing animals, including throwing chickens against walls, ripping the birds’ heads off,” he added.
Local media and banking tycoon Kith Meng’s Royal Group announced earlier this year that it would partner with the Malaysian firm QSR Brands Bhd to bring KFC to Cambodia.
The Royal Group is to have a 35 percent stake in the joint venture, QSR a 55 percent stake and the start-up Malaysian firm Rightlink Corp Ltd would hold the remaining 10 percent.
Kith Meng was unavailable to comment on the animal rights organization’s comments Tuesday night.
Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith confirmed that the Ministry of Commerce had granted KFC authorization to operate in the country.
KFC, the first global fast-food franchise to enter Cambodia, will open in the country’s three major tourist centers: Phnom Penh, Siem Reap town and Sihanoukville, Khieu Kanharith said.
“It would bring benefit to us: farmers raising chickens and growing corn [to feed them] and have a market for them to make income,” Khieu Kanharith said.
Regarding PETA’s allegations that KFC outlets would endanger the country’s culture, Culture Minister Veng Sereyvuth said that fried chicken was a well-known dish, present in numerous countries and that Cambodia was already familiar with fast-food outlets.
Tourists need a variety of food choices and cuisine when they travel, he said.
KFC would help create “multiple food choices,” and the choice is up to consumers, Veng Sereyvuth said.
KFC had not responded to an e-mailed request for comment by Tuesday night.
According to its Web site, KFC has outlets in 13 Asian countries including Thailand, Vietnam, Pakistan and China.
PETA’s Web site mentions that the organization filed a lawsuit in July against KFC, accusing the corporation of lying to the public about its animal-welfare policy.