Funding Questions Raised Over New Airline

Phnom Penh Chamber of Com­merce President Kith Meng said Tuesday that a new national airline being planned for Cam­bo­dia would not necessarily be a state-owned company in which the government was a majority share-holder.

Kith Meng met Tuesday with Council for the Development of Cam­bodia co-Chairman Prince Nor­odom Ranariddh to discuss plans for a national airline and present 11 concession requests.

“I think…the lawmakers should help the national carrier happen,” he said afterwards, adding that if the new airline received permission to use certain logos and re­ceived other types of support, it could qualify as a national carrier.

On Friday, the chamber an­nounc­ed that some of its members have pledged $25 million to form a new airline.

Royal Air Cambodge, the last flag carrier, failed in 2001. Asked if the new airline would have a chance to compete, Kith Meng said it would. “In the first three years, we would have difficulties. But in the fourth year, it would be get­ting easier to operate,” he said.

Say Sokhan, undersecretary of state for the State Secretariat for Ci­vil Aviation, said that the government will not give any special treatment to the new carrier. However, he said, the government would help the airline negotiate airport and traffic control fees.

Tourism Secretary of State Thong Khon said a national airline is necessary to develop tourism here. “It will help to market Cam­bo­dia,” he said.

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay questioned Tuesday where the government will get the mo­ney to subsidize the new venture given its current reliance on foreign aid.

“Through the current policy of open skies to Siem Reap and the ex­clusive contract with Bangkok Airways, the national carrier would not compete successfully on its own,” he said. “The government would have to subsidize it a lot.”

(Additional reporting by Erik Wasson)


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