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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cambodia is hidden gem-expat

Cambodia is hidden gem-expat

A n expatriate

Cambodian businessman, of the kind which the government is keen to attract,

spoke to John C. Brown about investment prospects here.

Entrepreneur Nick Ung spent a week in Phnom Penh weighing the

possibility of setting up a jewelry factory here for export to the United

States.

He already has his own jewelry business in Los Angeles and

setting up his own supplier would be a considerable boost to his business. But

there are many pitfalls to investing in Cambodia and he is wary of

them.

In fact Ung is wary of many things and still fears for his own

security here. He only agreed to be interviewed on the basis that a pseudonym be

used.

Ung says investment here is an attractive prospect for several

reasons.

He said: "Many things are good, the most important

consideration is the availability of cheap labor. In America the labor costs [in

the jewelry industry] are 10 times as high as in Cambodia."

Ung says a

second advantage is the fact that jewelry is already made here. "There are many

people with this kind of skill in Phnom Penh," he said.

"The third

advantage is that the people will work hard but the problem is that they do not

understand management systems.

"That is because many are not very well

educated at all. This is the biggest problem for investors who come to Cambodia.

The low level of education here means that the company owner must train the

workers in the company's system.

"But since I speak Khmer, I will have no

problem teaching my workers the things that they need to do. This is where many

foreigners have problems. This is where I have an advantage.

"In

addition, since I know how to do every job in the factory, I can train my people

to do their job."

But he added: "I would never consider opening a jewelry

shop here, anyone who comes here to open a business to take advantage of the

opening market will not make money. The present economy will not support it."

Ung believes that technology he wants to import from the US will allow

the jewelry to be made more quickly.

The jewelry will be designed in the

United States.

He said he would make a final decision on whether to

invest here after his return to the US.

He left Cambodia at the age of

twelve during the Lon Nol regime to study in Hong Kong. He was trapped outside

the country by the fall of Phnom Penh to the Khmer Rouge.

When asked as a

potential investor in Cambodia what he expects from the Cambodian government ,

Ung said, "I only ask that the government protect me. I don't care about

politics.

"When I first came here I was scared about the security

situation. I thought that it was like the old days. But I can see that things

have changed. The number of security problems are less here than in other

countries.

"People think that it is worse, because every time something

happens, all the newspapers publish a story about it. Everything becomes

exaggerated."

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