Muslims Protest Being Cheated Out of Hajj Trip

Some 200 Cambodian Muslims protested in front of the Kampot Provincial Court on Tuesday to pressure officials to deal with a complaint filed last year by a group of 40 of them who allege they were swindled out of thousands of dollars by travel agents.

The 40 handed approximately $60,000 in total to three brokers who claimed to have affiliations with AM Tourism Company, for flights and accommodation for 40 nights in order to take part in the holy hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, said Long Sovath, a representative of the group.

The would-be pilgrims were ready to fly on October 2 when one of the brokers turned up to the airport and told them there were only 12 seats available. She said she could not provide refunds.

Feeling pity for the rest of the group, Mr. Sovath paid for 15 others to embark on the trip and said this year he will pay for the remaining 13. A month after the incident, on December 3, he filed a lawsuit to recoup his losses.

“I filed the lawsuit because I need the money to reduce my financial burdens,” he said.

Ly Neang, 60, one of the cheated who paid $3,200 for the trip and who will be going this year, said she was initially angry with Mr. Sovath, believing it was his fault that the arrangement fell through.

“I couldn’t go last year. They sold him fake tickets. But he told me that I can go this year.”

Mr. Sovath said that since last year, the court has issued six summonses to the travel brokers, but each time they have failed to appear.

“They always say their lawyers don’t have time to join them in court,” he said.

The three brokers and AM Tourism officials could not be reached for comment.

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