Weekend Stabbings Could Dampen Tourism, Agent Says

Last weekend’s attack on three Japanese tourists might discourage other Japanese tourists from visiting the country, a Japanese tour agency said Wednesday.

The three men were hurt—two seriously—in a late-night brawl Saturday outside the Manhattan’s nightclub in Phnom Penh. Police are seeking five Cambo­dian suspects, including Nhim Pov, the nephew of Prime Minister Hun Sen and the son of Cambodia’s ambassador to Burma.

The two most seriously injured men were flown to Bangkok for treatment for stab wounds caused by broken bottles.

The attack prompted Japan, the single largest donor to Cambodia, to call pointedly for better law enforcement but police said Wednesday they have made no progress in the investigation. Security officials here have routinely been criticized for failing to solve crimes allegedly committed by suspects with connections to high-ranking government officials.

The Japanese Embassy has issued a warning to Japanese nationals and tourists to be cautious and protect themselves while in Cambodia.

Soy Sokha, economic adviser for the Council of Ministers, said the incident Saturday was just a “personal dispute” that could have happened to anyone and should not affect tourism.

But Sathol Miyura, president of the Apex Travel Agency, said the attack could seriously discourage Japanese travel here. “It presents a very bad image for Cambodia, and tourists may not want to come here again,” he said.

Experts say it’s difficult to know which events will drive tourists away, and for how long.

And Cambodia’s factional fighting in 1997 derailed the tourism industry for several years, al­though it has grown recently.

Cambodian tourism officials said they hope to attract more Japanese tourists because they are well-behaved, spend a substantial amount of money, and have been coming in increasing numbers.

Tourism officials said the number of Japanese visitors increased by a third between the same periods of 1999 and 2000.  As of October, more than 16,000 Japa­nese tourists had arrived in Cambodia.

The Apex agency alone ar­ranged tours for 3,570 Japanese visitors in 1999 and 6,500 visitors in 2000. All of them came to Cambodia to visit Angkor Wat, Apex officials said, classifying      70 percent of its clients as “older.”

 

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