Hostage Drama May Daunt Expatriates

The killing of a Canadian toddler during Thursday’s kindergarten hos­tage drama in Siem Reap town will not likely scare tourists away, but may hurt long term investment in Cambodia and reduce the country’s attractiveness for expatriate workers, a tourism industry official said on Friday.

The short-stay tourists that make up the majority of visitors to Siem Reap town and the Angkor Ar­­chae­ological Park will not be de­terred by the hostage taking as it was a general security issue and not related to terrorism, said Moeung Sonn, managing director of Eurasie Travel in Phnom Penh.

But investors and expatriate work­ers may be concerned about safe­ty and the future of their children, Moeung Sonn said.

“I can’t see the crisis in Siem Reap affecting tourism because most of the hostages survived. I think the expatriates who are work­ing in the town for a long time and investors may be the most affected,” he said.

Thursday’s incident was a social is­sue and not related to politics, Moeung Sonn said, but he added that growing poverty, gambling and prostitution are a lethal criminal mix and will continue to cause serious problems unless tackled.

News of the hostage-taking may af­fect some visitors in the short term but the incident will soon fade from memory, said Koy Song, di­rec­tor of Siem Reap’s provincial tour­ism department.

“This kind of robbery never happened in Siem Reap. This is the first time,” he said.

Tourism Ministry Secretary of State Thong Khon said the incident was not terrorism related and so would not frighten visitors.

“It was a case of robbery, and eve­rything was covered, and the killers were arrested by the authorities,” said Thong Khon, who was present during the hostage ne­go­tiations on Thursday.

“Until now I haven’t seen anyone can­cel a trip to Cambodia,” he said.

The country’s tourist sector generated $777 million in 2004, around 12 percent of GDP, and saw 1 million visitors arriving in the country. That figure may be topped in 2005 with over 500,000 visitors in the first four months of this year, ac­cord­ing to Ministry of Tourism statistics .


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