C ONFLICTING accounts about the shape of the new national carrier Royal Air Cambodge have emerged.
The head of Kampuchea Airlines (KA) Prince Sisowath Chivan Monirak publicly maintains that it will begin in a low-key way as essentially the repainting of his small fleet.
But a well-placed government source revealed that KA may soon be signing a deal with Malaysian Airlines (MAS) exactly like the one which Singapore International Airlines (SIA) pulled out of earlier this year.
In either event if Royal Air Cambodge does finally take to the skies it will mean the eventual demise of Cambodia International Airlines as a Khmer carrier.
The source said: "They are talking with Malaysian Airlines now. The contract is exactly the same one as before, the only thing different on it is the name."
The source is backed by reports from Malaysia in which MAS executives says they are about to take a minority stake in RAC.
The contract which SIA negotiated with the Royal Government had the airline taking a 40 percent interest in RAC and a leading role in management. In addition SIA was to have lent the government money for its 60 percent share.
Some analysts saw the deal as SIA driving a hard bargain.
The source said that as before the take off of Royal Air Cambodge would mean the activation of a Council of Ministers order requiring CIA to cease flying. He said he did not think the new airline would be in the air before January.
The version of events forseen by the Prince, will also mean the end for CIA in Cambodia. But the Prince said he wanted to soften the blow by giving CIA a grace period while RAC took over their routes, phasing them out.
Previously the Prince had considered allowing Thai-owned CIA to operate in competition with RAC but under a new name not using the words Cambodia, Cambodge, Kampuchea or Khmer.
But he said he came to the conclusion that RAC would have to be the sole Cambodian carrier because of confusion among consumers.
The Prince said: "I have nothing against CIA but everything has to come to an end. I would like the end to come without us being enemies.
"What I'm going to do is based soley in the interests of RAC. RAC will have the monopoly."
Neither Tourism Minister Veng Sereyvuth nor his Under Secretary of State Sok Chenda were able to shed further light on the matter.
They referred calls to Prince Chivan Monirak but added that he was working closely with MAS.
The Prince confirmed that KA's partnership deal with SK Air would not be renewed when it expires at the end of January.