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.