Officials from the ministries of tourism and commerce have called upon the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to better employ Cambodian embassies abroad in representing the nation’s economic interests.
Thon Virak, deputy director of the Commerce Ministry’s Foreign Trade department, said last week that while there are commerce officials at embassies in Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, the US and the European Union, they have done little. The officials do not have enough financial experience and ability to help Cambodian businesses attract investment and promote their products abroad, he said.
“In general there was not much work related to business” at the embassies, Thon Virak said.
Tourism Minister Lay Prohas agreed that Cambodian embassies are key to business promotion.
“If we could have one tourism specialist in each embassy, it will be helpful for this sector,” he said, adding that the ministry is producing publications for embassies to distribute promoting tourism here.
“I called on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to help us,” he said. “Embassies are the eyes and ears of the government and nation.”
Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay met late last month with Foreign Minister Hor Namhong to discuss getting embassies more involved with commerce.
“Embassy officials abroad must be people knowledgeable about the economy,” Son Chhay said recently. “The government should put more commerce and trade specialists in every embassy to improve trade.”
Two newly appointed Funcinpec ambassadors promised this month to do their part to attract investment here. As ambassador to the Philippines, Ok Socheat said he will work closely with the Asian Development Bank to win donations for rural development. He also said he will spend time meeting with Korean, Chinese and Japanese investors working in the Philippines to convince them to invest here.
Pou Sothirak, scheduled to leave for Japan in February also said that attracting investment and promoting tourism are top priorities. He said he wants to convey Cambodia’s investment potential to the Japanese.
“We have agricultural products but we lack information,” he said.
A senior US Embassy official in Phnom Penh, however, said that an embassy’s role in commerce can sometimes be limited.
Any Cambodian diplomat would have to be equipped with the appropriate technical support and the assistance of researchers to help Cambodian companies abroad, the official said, on condition of anonymity.
He also noted that public relations campaigns promoting tourism and products are not typically the business of embassies.
(Additional reporting by Erik Wasson)