Gov’t Announces Venture for National Airline

At a signing ceremony Friday, Cabinet Minister Sok An and two Indonesian firms announced the creation of a national flag air carrier, the nation’s first since the Oct 2001 demise of Royal Air Cambodge.

A name and routes for the new airline, which is expected to begin operations within six months, have not yet been chosen, they said.

Speaking at the Council of Ministers, Sok An told reporters that a memorandum of understanding signed with the conglomerate Rajawali Group and PT Ancora International did not require the government to provide investment capital.

“If the company loses profit, the government won’t lose with it,” he said. “The companies will spend all capital investment and will be responsible for any losses in the case the airline fails.”

Sok An said the agreement gave the government a 51 percent stake in the joint venture, a 30-percent share of any profits and the right to appoint the chairman of the board.

Prime Minister Hun Sen earlier this month expressed frustration with the pace of negotiations, saying that five years was too long for a flag carrier to return to life.

“We have to prepare everything to be able to fly within six months,” Sok An said Friday.

Rajawali Group CEO Peter Sondakh, ranked Indonesia’s 40th richest man by Forbes magazine in 2006, said he could not yet disclose the amount of his company’s investment.

“I guess the booming of tourists is a reason to establish an airline in Cambodia,” Sondakh said.

Mao Havannall, secretary of state at the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, said Friday that a national air carrier would give Cambodia the freedom to chose the destinations that suit its interests.

“As a national airline, it will be the priority airline,” he said. “It can request to fly any route it needs.”

Also last week, an international airline launched its new route to Cambodia. Societe Concession­naire des Aeroports—which manages the country’s three largest airports—announced that Japan Airline’s inaugural chartered flight had arrived Nov 20 at Siem Reap International Airport.

SCA spokesman Khek Norinda explained Friday that while Fin­nair and Chinese airline Shenzhen Air were also in talks with government officials over beginning service to Cambodia, they had not yet chosen which airport to serve.


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