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Fears for tourism during rally

Visitors to the Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap navigate the temple complex
Visitors to the Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap navigate the temple complex. Sreng Meng Srun

Fears for tourism during rally

The opposition’s planned demonstration in Siem Reap next month could affect the tourism industry in Cambodia’s most important visitor destination, the government and industry representatives said yesterday.

Cambodian Tourism Minister Thong Khon told the Post that the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s (CNRP) December 10 rally could have “huge” consequences for both residents and businesses, particularly if tensions escalated.

“I was told that some tour operators have received trip cancellations from their clients, especially from Vietnamese tourists, who are the number-one visitors to Cambodia,” he said.

Khon said he did not object to the CNRP protesting but said the opposition should avoid Cambodia’s most popular tourist spot, Angkor Wat, so tourists were not disrupted.

The CNRP is refusing to acknowledge the results of the July 28 election, calling for an independent investigation into the poll it says was marred by voter irregularities. Since the election the party has held a series of “massive non-violent demonstrations” in the capital.

An announcement was made last week to move the December 10 rally – scheduled on the annual Human Rights Day holiday – from the capital to Siem Reap. Details are still being worked through, but the CNRP expects to attract 10,000 people from nearby provinces.

Ho Vandy, co-chair of the Tourism Private Sector Working Group, said yesterday private operators had raised concerns over the event, but details of the size and location of the rally were still needed to assess the impact on the industry. “When problems exist, everyone should sit down and find a win-win solution for all,” he said.

Demonstrators intended the rally to be nonviolent, Ke Sovanroth, CNRP working group leader in Siem Reap, said yesterday.

“If [authorities] do not show any violent act towards demonstrators, then the rally will go peacefully”, she said.

Sovanroth added that if tourists stayed away it would be due to the potential threat of violence from authorities.

Siem Reap is the main tourist destination in Cambodia attracting millions of visitors every year. Tourist numbers reached 1.7 million visitors in the first 10 months this year.

Hotels in Siem Reap that the Post spoke to were all nervous about the damage the protests could do to their business.

“It affects tourists who are planning to come to Cambodia. They might reconsider [their] plan,” one hotel manager said, asking not to be named.

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