A USTRALIAN company Telstra's new US $15 million telephone center was opened on December 3, while more telecommunications projects are planned to improve Cambodia's "third-world" telephone system.
Meanwhile, the possible privatization of Cambodia's state-owned telephone industry has been mooted by Second Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Telecommunications Minister So Khun told the Telstra opening ceremony that only 12 out of every 100 Cambodians had a telephone.
That put the country in the third-world category, he said, but that would soon change due to telecommunications improvements such as Telstra's.
The new Bayon International Telecommunications Center would help increase the number of people with telephones, lower telephone prices and make it easier to call abroad.
Ly Sam Ang, deputy director of international telecommunications, said the center provided 5000 new telephone lines.
They would allow Cambodians to call directly to many countries such as the United States, China, France, Hong Kong and Malaysia. Previously, only Australia, Thailand, Singapore and Japan could be called directly, the rest being routed through Sydney.
Ly Sam Ang said the center should eventually see telephone tariffs cut by 20 per cent.
Other telecommunications improvements planned include a French project to build a domestic telephone exchange with 6000 lines next year.
Japan also planned to introduce 10,000 new underground telephone lines, though that was yet to be confirmed, he said.
Second Prime Minister Hun Sen, speaking at the Telstra opening, said there were many companies willing to invest in Cambodia's telephone system.
He advised the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, which he urged to become more businesslike and professional, to carefully examine such bids.
"The telecommunications sector is vital for the development of the national economy", he said. "I urge the ministry to satisfy customers and cooperate with foreign companies which invest in Cambodia, like Telstra which was the first company to invest in Cambodia in 1990."
Hun Sen also suggested the Ministry investigate whether the telecommunications sector should be privatized, as many other countries had done.
"(Any) privatization must be done carefully and in step because if we do not manage it well the Government and the Ministry of Post and Telecommunication will lose profit", he warned.