Funcinpec Official Defends Tourism Minister

Funcinpec Deputy Prime Min­ister Lu Laysreng on Monday de­­fended Tourism Minister Lay Pro­has and his record of promoting tourism in Cambodia following recent criticisms of the ministry by Funcinpec President Prince Noro­dom Ranariddh.

The prince’s criticisms ac­com­pan­­i­ed suggestions that certain min­istries need to be reshuffled, and some observers saw his words as a threat that Lay Prohas could soon lose his position.

At a biannual ministerial meeting on Monday, Lu Laysreng, who is also minister of Rural De­velop­ment, praised the growth of tour­ism in Cambodia and said Lay Pro­has would be key in helping Cam­bodia reach the goal of 4 million to 6 million tourists by 2010.

Lu Laysreng also defended the Tour­ism Ministry against critics who allege that Cambodia has not suc­ceeded as well as Thai­land and Malaysia at attracting new visitors. The problem, he suggested, is that the ministry has not received nearly as much money for marketing and publicity as its more successful neighbors.

“Malaysia spent $200 million, Thai­­land spent $100 million, but we have zero million for promotion,” he said.

The solution, Lu Laysreng said, was to earmark 15 percent of revenues from the Angkor Archeo­logical Park for promoting tour­ism in Cambodia. He said he would soon approach Prime Min­ister Hun Sen with the idea.

“We can’t go fishing without bait,” he explained.

Tourism Minister Lay Prohas said Monday he had received no official notification of a reshuffle and defended his record, saying that tourism has increased 50 percent since 2003. He also alleged that comparing Cambodia’s tour­ism figures to those of its regional neigh­bors was unfair and misleading.

“They [Thailand and Malaysia] have many international airports and national [air] carriers,” he said. “We were at war for 30 years and don’t have money to promote the tourism sector.”

He also blamed Cambodia’s poor infrastructure and the world’s misguided views of the country for hindering tourism.

“Tourism is related to infrastructure and so is related to all ministries,” he said, adding: “They be­lieve we have many land­mines, but in fact we don’t. We need money, time and hu­man re­sources to change the world’s view about Cambodia.”

Meoung Sonn, National As­sociation of Tourism Enterprises president, in a letter to Prince Rana­­riddh on Friday defended Lay Pro­has and said his work has been key in promoting tourism in Cam­bodia.

“I would ask the prince to let him keep his position,” he said by telephone Sunday. “The news [of the reshuffle] disappoints me and others in the tourism industry.”

He claimed that due to the Tour­ism Ministry’s efforts, tour­ism is up 40 percent in the first six months of 2005. He also said Lay Prohas has done an excellent job pushing for the removal of illegal checkpoints on roads leading to Siem Reap.


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