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Goverment clamping down on illegal checkpoints

Goverment clamping down on illegal checkpoints

The Ministry of Tourism has created three inspection groups headed by three state

secretaries to investigate illegal checkpoints targeting tourists in several provinces

throughout Cambodia.

Nuth Nin Doeun is leading the inspection group in Battambang and Siem Reap. Ruos

Ren heads the inspection group investigating Kandal, Takeo, Kampot, Kep and Kampong

Speu. Sam Promonea is leading the inspection group investigating Phnom Penh International

Airport.

Lay Prohas, Minister of Tourism, said the inspections are still being conducted.

Several inspections have been completed, but at press time the results of these inspections

were unavailable.

Prohas said they would send him the report in the next few weeks. "We are working

hard on that issue. After completion I will pass it to the Prime Minister for approval,"

said Prohas. Eventually the results will be available to the public.

The inspections stem from complaints lodged by foreign tourists. Cambodia has seen

a drastic increase in tourism. Compared to the first six months of 2003 and 2004,

the amount of tourist arrivals in Cambodia has increased by 40 percent.

"We estimate that tourist arrivals will grow to 1.5 million in 2005," said

Prohas.

Nuth Nin Doeun, secretary of state at the Tourism Ministry and the chief of inspection

at Battambang and Siem Reap, said he had inspected sites at Phnom Krom and Chong

Khneas. Doeun said they did not find illegal checkpoints at these sites.

Nuth said the report would be completed next week. "I'm still working on that

issue, after I finish I will make it available to the minister," he said.

Moeung Sonn, President of the National Association of Tourism Enterprise, gave the

Post one example of tourists having to pay excessive prices.

"Many tourists who have visited the temples near Siem Reap wanted to take boat

tours along the Tonle Sap river to Chong Khneas, but a coalition committee which

controls the area overcharged them for their services," he explained. He expressed

fears that such encounters will damage the reputation of tourism in Cambodia.

"Many tourists have complained about the fees charged at resorts in our country

in comparison with fees in neighboring countries," Sonn said.

He said putting illegal checkpoints at resorts not only discourages tourism, but

it also makes the people around the resorts lose their daily income.

Sonn voiced concerns that the investigation by the Tourism Ministry will not be fair

if the inspection groups only negotiate with the officials at the resorts. Sonn suggested

it would be more effective to talk with the boat drivers and local people in the

area, especially at Chong Khneas.

Battambang province has experienced a problem involving police selling fake tickets

to tourists. In Prach, deputy chief of tourism in Battambang, said the 10 tourism

sites in the province did not place the police in charge of ticketing, but they often

sold phony tickets to foreign tourists for $2 each. "Tourism in Battambang has

also decreased due to the poor condition of the roads during the rainy season,"

said Prach.

On August 23, Son Chhay, a Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker, sent a letter to the Minister

of Tourism asking for help in resolving the problem of police setting up illegal

checkpoints and selling fake tickets to tourists.

Checkpoints have been reported at the sites in and near Phnom Krom, Chong Khneas

at Siem Reap, Koh Dach in Kandal, Tonle Bati in Takeo, Amper Phnom in Kampong Speu,

Phnom Sampov in Battambang and Kep.

According to the annual report from the Ministry of Tourism, about 57 percent of

all international visitor arrivals came to Siem Reap in 2003. The actual number for

2004 is expected to be around 570,000. By 2008, it may reach 1.3 million and by 2010,

1.9 million.

Revenue generated from tourism in Siem Reap was about $100 million in 2003 and is

forecasted at $240 million in 2006 and 600 million in 2010. Most tourists were from

Japan, Korea, China and the USA.

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