In October 1999, the Cambodian Embassy in the US established a Web site to provide information for prospective visitors.
The results were electrifying.
Before the site was put on the Web, the embassy processed between 20 and 30 visa applications a week. Now, Ambassador Roland Eng says, the embassy processes 50 to 100 visas per day.
“Installing the Web site has been really helpful for disseminating information about our country related to tourism and investment opportunities,” Roland Eng said last weekend, when Cambodian ambassadors and consuls were in Phnom Penh for their annual three-day meeting with the country’s leaders.
The site, at http://[email protected], is a handsome collection of pages illustrated with full-color photographs of Cambodian monuments and art.
It includes links to recent articles about Cambodia, contact numbers for embassies and ministries in Phnom Penh, tips for speaking Khmer, investment information, general information about the country and detailed instructions on applying for visas.
Applicants can even complete visa applications online, but still must send their passports to the embassy for processing.
Roland Eng said that although Cambodia staffs 27 embassies and consulates around the world, only two field Web sites: the embassies to the US and Japan.
He said he has also worked to distribute information to the Khmer community living in the US through posters and magazines, which he credits with helping to boost tourism.
Prime Minister Hun Sen and National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh met separately with the envoys. Both asked them to work to change Cambodia’s international image as a land beset by problems.
The meetings were closed to the media, but spokesman Sieng Lapresse summarized events for reporters. “We have peace, political stability,” and an increasingly strong record of building democracy, Sieng Lapresse quoted the prince as saying.
Hun Sen urged the ambassadors to stress Cambodia’s potential in tourism and business, and to keep closer track of developments in the countries where they are posted.
Sieng Lapresse said the ambassadors were instructed to file weekly reports on conditions in their countries. He said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will set up its own Web site to expedite communications.
A number of ambassadors complained they lacked the budget to do their jobs properly. Hun Sen told them to send all visa receipts to Cambodia promptly and cautioned them not to pay any operating costs out of them.
Ambassador to Japan Ing Kiet said he is working hard to convince Japanese tourists and businessmen to visit Cambodia. He suggested the government allow direct flights from Japan to Cambodia.
Foreign Ministry officials reported that more than 1,000 diplomatic passports were improperly issued to businessmen and high officials and will be withdrawn. They also said Cambodia is considering opening an embassy in England soon.