A South Korean investment company is investing $10 million to provide eight-seat electric cars to serve tourists visiting the Angkor temples in Siem Reap.
ABC International Cambodia Co Ltd is planning to deliver 300 electric cars, which run on batteries and don’t make noise or smoke, in time for the millennium festival at the end of this year, Hwa Jin Lee, project manager, said Monday.
Cambodian officials are expecting 30,000 tourists to visit the Angkor temples daily during the three-day celebration that will include fireworks and traditional dance performances.
“There are a lot of tourists visiting Angkor so we thought this would be a good investment,” Lee said.
The joint project with Apsara Authority, the government agency that oversees the temple area, is being hailed by tourism officials as a way to promote Siem Reap as a tranquil, smoke-free area. Government officials say private cars and motorbikes will be banned from the Angkor temple area starting next month.
“We don’t want Siem Reap to have noise or smoke from vehicles,” said So Mara, director general of the Ministry of Tourism.
Apsara Authority plans to hire 500 local women in traditional Cambodian dress to become drivers of the electric cars, So Mara said. Women drivers attract more tourists and it also gives women an opportunity to have decent jobs, he said.
ABC will build a station in the Angkor temple area where the electric cars will be able to quickly recharge batteries when they run low. Fees for the service haven’t been set.
So Mara said the electric cars, which are being manufactured by a US company, won’t affect local drivers or motodops who operate in Siem Reap town.
“They can still continue their job as normal, but they have to follow the rules of Apsara Authority, which will limit the travel area for taxis or motos,” he said. “They can drive tourists outside the banned area.”
Taxi drivers and motodops in Siem Reap recently protested against the electric car project, saying it will cause them to lose their jobs. They stood in front of Angkor Wat and told colleagues to join them in the protest.
Tep Vatho, Siem Reap bureau chief of Apsara Authority, said she wrote a letter to the main office in Phnom Penh to report the demonstration.
Keo Saravuth, an Angkor conservation official, agreed with the taxi drivers and motodops, saying the electric car project could affect their livelihoods.
He also said it would be difficult for officials to rid Siem Reap of smoke and noise, because most residents use motos.
Minister of Tourism Veng Sereyvuth, however, said the electric car project will persuade more tourists to come visit the Angkor temples. “It’s a great idea,” he said. “I think it will work perfectly.”
The electric car project is one of the latest efforts by officials to revamp the Angkor temple area to promote tourism.
In August, the Apsara Authority announced it was banning beggars and vendors from the most popular temples at Angkor to prepare for the millennium celebration, which will mark the beginning of the “Years of Peaceful Tourism.”
Roads and bridges on Natonal Route 6 from Kompong Thom town to Siem Reap are also receiving temporary repairs in preparation for the festival.
The Japanese Government Team for Safeguarding Angkor is working with the government on a $20 million project to restore the temples.
Tourism officials also have pushed for expanding direct flights to Siem Reap from Asian cities. Now, the government has a one-international-airport policy.