The European Commission has blacklisted Siem Reap Airways International and raised concerns about the State Secretariat for Civil Aviation’s ability to implement or enforce international safety standards, according to a Friday press release.
Siem Reap Airways, which offers regular flights to several Asian countries, is now on a blacklist intended to ensure “safer skies in Europe” and which includes airlines from North Korea, Afghanistan, Indonesia, the Ukraine and several poor African nations, according to the release.
Siem Reap Airways “does not operate in compliance with Cambodia safety regulations nor does it meet the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization,” the statement said. “Significant concerns have also been expressed by ICAO with regard to the ability of Cambodian civil aviation authorities to implement and enforce the international safety standards.”
Currently there are no direct flights from Cambodia to Europe.
Tea Sutha, undersecretary of state for the Civil Aviation Secretariat, said he would not discuss in detail the reasons for the blacklist, but that the European Commission contacted Siem Reap Airways four months ago.
“The company doesn’t meet enough of the criteria [of the EU],” Tea Sutha said, adding he did not know if Siem Reap Airways actually applied to extend flights there. “We won’t have an immediate response until we see the full report.”
Siem Reap Airways officials could not be reached for comment Sunday. Pok Poun, press and information officer for the European delegation in Cambodia, said Sunday that desk officer Daniele Dal Mol was not available to answer questions on the subject until today.
Several high profile accidents and incidents have plagued Cambodia’s aviation industry and the Civil Aviation Secretariat in recent years.
In June 2007, 22 people died in a PMT Air crash in Kampot province. Aviation authorities said a study of the accident was inconclusive though authorities have refused to release the results. Families of victims say they still have not received compensation and there have been calls for the Civil Aviation Secretariat to force PMT to pay up.
PMT president Sar Sareth could not be reached Sunday.
The decision also comes after National Police Chief Hok Lundy and three others died in a helicopter crash Nov 9. That crash is still under investigation, said Say Sokhan, Civil Aviation Secretariat undersecretary secretary of state.
Say Sokhan disputed the EU’s statement.
“We have laws and regulations. They can’t say that,” he said. He referred questions about recent plane crashes to General Director Chea Aun, who couldn’t be reached Sunday.
CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said the Civil Aviation Secretariat must improve but said that Cambodia is not the only country that has plane crashes.
“We need to reform to meet the standards,” he said. “We can’t say we are good yet. We are working to have confidence in Cambodian companies. If tourists have no confidence, the tourism industry will collapse.”
(Additional reporting by Tim Sturrock)