K AMPUCHEA Airline's (KA) new chairman Prince Sisowath Chivanmonirak took over
the day after his predecessor Prince Chakrapong flew into exile after being
accused of leading a failed coup.
And the new chairman took no time in
adding a new twist to the Cambodian civil aviation saga. He declared: "I am 100
percent sure that Kampuchea Airlines will reform as Royal Air Cambodge (RAC). We
are going to do it ourselves."
Prince Chivanmonirak was referring to the
failure of the Royal Government to clinch an equitable deal with Singapore
International Airlines (SIA) over the formation of RAC.
said that the deal is stone dead after SIA failed to compromise sufficiently on
aspects of the contract which the government felt were exploitative.
However Gen Nady Tan, the government negotiator and designated president
of the SIA version of RAC is reportedly still clinging to the idea that the old
deal can be revived.
Previous plans for the expansion of KA into a fully
international airline following the failure of the SIA deal are to go on hold.
They are to be revised after the prince has thoroughly examined the structure of
His short term plans include opening up routes to Hong
Kong, Singapore as well as maintaining flights to Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City.
Later the company may add Tokyo to its flight list in a joint venture, the
He added the transformation from state-enterprise KA into
privately-owned RAC would take place "hopefully in three months."
Funding for the expansion is likely to come from KA or government
coffers and not from abroad, he said. Though he added that some foreign advisors
may be recruited from other airlines.
The Prince said it was too early
for him to make any concrete figures or plans.
"The only thing in my mind
is to make a profit," he said, denying this would mean hiking fares. He said:
"We have to be attractive to traveler s in order to make a profit."
Thai-owned Cambodian International Airlines was to have ceased
operations a week prior to the planned start up of the SIA version of RAC on
A CIA spokeswoman said last month that the airline had held
preliminary talks with First Prime Minister Norodom Ranariddh over it becoming
involved in finally getting RAC off the ground.
When asked about the
eventual fate of CIA, Prince Chivanmonirak said: "Ask me that question in three
Prior to taking the KA helm he had been working as a fraud
investigator for Los Angeles County's Social Security Department. He flew to
Cambodia two weeks prior to announcing his new appointment. Prince
Chivan-monirak says he is on good terms with Prince Ranariddh, who invited him
to take the job. The First Prime Minister and Prince Chakrapong are reputed to
be sworn enemies.
Prince Chivanmonirak is a former jet fighter pilot. He
was arrested and held in a prison camp in the Lon Nol coup in 1970 before being
allowed to go into exile in 1973. He initially went to Beijing and then had
spells in Yugoslavia, France and then the US.
Joining him as deputy
chairman and managing director is Pan Chantra, who has taken a two year leave of
absence from his job as a senior manager at Houston airport in
Royal Air Cambodge was the national flag carrier during the
Sixties, which is considered the golden era in the nation's modern history.
The Prince has said that among the first orders he has made are
improvements to the dated and somewhat shabby front office of the airline's
headquarters on Norodom Boulevard and better interior cleaning of the Boeing 737
which serves the international routes. He concluded on taking his new job: "It's
a big challenge and I love challenges."
FIRST Prime Minister Prince
Ranariddh is seeking approval from the Council of Ministers for the $500,000
refurbishment of a grounded airliner to be used as a luxury government
If the proposal gets the go ahead a Kampuchea Airlines Tupolev 134
will be flown to Russia for a complete overhaul and internal reconfiguration, an
airline spokesman said.
It will be divided into three sections, with the
number of seats reduced from 70 to 40. The rear section will be for secretaries
and aides, the middle section for ministers and the front for the prime
ministers themselves, with full VIP trimmings. The work will take around 70 days
The Tupolev, which has the range to reach Beijing with a
single stop over, used to fly on KA's Siem Reap and Ho Chi Minh City routes
before being grounded due to reaching its maximum flying hours before its next