Burma-based Air Bagan plans to begin operating twice-weekly flights from Rangoon to Siem Reap International Airport after the company purchases new planes, company representatives said yesterday.
The company hopes to begin flying the new route, potentially the first regular direct flight between Cambodia and Burma, by the beginning of next fall but has not scheduled a maiden voyage because international sanctions against the airline complicate the plane purchasing process, said Marketing Manager Sen Ter.
“We chose Siem Reap because tourism data shows us that there are lot of tourists and we want to bring them to our country,” Ms Ter said by telephone from Rangoon.
Roughly 100,000 people arrived at Rangoon’s airport in 2005, according the latest statistics available from Burma’s Ministry of Hotels and Tourism. According to Cambodia’s Tourism Ministry, 520,081 people arrived at Siem Reap International Airport in the first 11 months of last year.
Tep Suntary, director of the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation’s air transport department said yesterday that 17 carriers currently offer service to the Siem Reap airport and that additional flights to the airport from Phnom Penh and Jakarta are going through the approval process.
“In order to fly into Siem Reap, the airline will have to apply for and receive an air operator certificate, and the process can take time,” said Ms Suntary, adding that Air Bagan had yet to begin the process officially.
Air Bagan Chairman Tay Za was blacklisted in 2010 by the US Treasury Department because of allegations that he provided arms to the Burmese junta, and was barred by a 2003 European Union decision from receiving an EU visa.
“Tay Za is basically part of the junta, which he works to supply with the foreign funds they need to survive,” Mark Farminer, director of the London-based democracy group the Burma Campaign, said by telephone from London.
But according to Ho Vandy, co-chairman of a government-private sector working group on tourism policy, the private sector should be more concerned with providing destinations for tourists than with the political concerns surrounding tourism in Burma, where detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has advocated a tourism boycott since the mid-1990s.
“Success would depend on how we went about promoting ourselves and the link,” said Mr Vandy.
According to Mr Farminer, foreign tourists to Burma have helped finance the repressive military regime over the last decade.