Kith Meng of the Royal Group of companies was elected president of the Phnom Penh Chamber of Commerce on Monday, promising reform and new efforts to attract foreign investors.
Kith Meng, whose investments include MobiTel and TV station CTN, said he will focus on attracting investment in agriculture and tourism during his 3-year mandate.
He plans to increase communication with other chambers of commerce in the provinces and abroad, and to use his TV station to “help people understand about the role of the Chamber of Commerce.”
Mao Thura, undersecretary of state for the Commerce Ministry, said the election results were no surprise.
“They knew beforehand who would win and who would not,” he said. “They lobbied among themselves.”
“Nobody wants to lose face if they actually lost the election,” he added.
He added that Kith Meng’s immediate predecessor, Sokimex petroleum president Sok Kong, previously ran unopposed.
Sok Kong said he had felt no pressure to step down and offered his guidance as “honorary president.”
“I was president for six years,” he said. “We can’t always have the same person run for president.”
Asked why he wanted the position, Kith Meng replied: “It’s not a question of what I want. I was elected.”
Kith Meng won unopposed with 33 votes. One member was absent and six abstained, Mao Thura said.
Tim Smyth, President of the Australian Business Association of Cambodia, was optimistic about the benefits of Kith Meng’s international experience.
While access to capital is a major limitation for Cambodian businesses, businesses also need modern management practices, he said.
“[Kith Meng’s] business associations with international companies will allow him to bring the feedback from international companies,” Smyth said. “The more people that the chamber of commerce has that understand the workings of international business, the better.”
The Phnom Penh chamber is scheduled to move into a new six-story, $1 million-plus building on Russian Boulevard, to be paid for by Suzuki and Sharp product distributor OMC Co Ltd, which will build a new vehicle showroom at the chamber’s current location, Mao Thura said.
Kith Meng offered $100,000 toward the chamber’s operating budget for this year, which Mao Thura estimated at $300,000.
“We should wait and see [Kith Meng’s] activity in six months,” Sok Kong said. “Now it’s still too early to say whether he’s a good leader or not.”