Three significant initiatives are already on the agenda as spin-offs from the
ground-breaking India-Asean car rally which traversed Cambodia and ended in
Indonesia on December 11 after travelling 8,000 kilometers through nine
The Cambodian Government has invited the Indian Government to
begin direct flights to Siem Reap or Phnom Penh. The possibility of a full-scale
international competitive rally similar to the Paris-Dakar is being
investigated. As well, a Federation of Asean Motorsports is to be formed to
promote the development of motor sport in the region.
Ambassador P.K. Kapur and Cambodian Secretary of State for Tourism Thong Khon
are enthusiastic about the social and economic growth likely to arise from the
"We are creating history because this is the first time that
countries of this region have collectively crossed borders freely in cars. It
will help to open up closer social, cultural and economic contact between our
countries. Nothing like this has ever happened before. The co-operation has been
extraordinary," said Ambassador Kapur.
"There are currently 5 million
ASEAN outbound tourists annually. The WTO forecasts that by 2020, there will be
50 million outbound Indian tourists and 100 million Chinese tourists travelling
internationally. This year the Ministry estimates 50,000 Chinese and 8,000
Indian tourists will visit Cambodia and this will continue to increase annually.
Calcutta is only 2-3 hours flight away so we believe it is time for direct air
links," added Khon
He said the rally event had exposed Cambodia to the
Indian market and other ASEAN countries, as well as hundreds of millions of TV
viewers world-wide. He said the rally would also pave the way for tourist car
and bus travel through Asean countries.
The rally commission chairman,
Rajat Mazurnde, when asked at a mid-rally press conference in Phnom Penh whether
he envisaged something like the Paris-Dakar rally being planned, replied: "I did
not have the courage to try this at the first go because I did only one route
survey and you need at least 5-10 surveys to make it a competitive stage rally.
But whatever we wanted, it was given. We had helicopters throughout the Indian
and Myanmar sectors, ambulatory medical services, police and military support
and so on. We have to study this possibility in much more detail."
said TV exposure had been significant: "Seeing is believing. Many people did not
believe that a four-wheeler could go from India 8,000 km through these beautiful
countries. Video coverage is being beamed live to 700 million people in Europe
through our satellite tracking systems and I have had many calls from viewers.
Every evening the satellite bands we use send out 15 minutes of edited feed to
small satellites accessible to the Discovery Channel, Star Sports, ESPN and
other national channels. People have been saying they didn't know there were
wild elephants in Cambodia. We are tourism ambassadors; we are spreading the
message that Cambodia is a beautiful country."
Asked what specific
benefits there could be for Cambodia from the rally, he said: "My wife saw the
rally on TV and said she and her friend would fly over to meet us at Siem Reap.
Then I got a phone call this morning to say 11 of them are coming. She said if
they'd known earlier they could have organized their own distinct groups to
follow the rally, by air. Cambodian art, culture and marriage clothing is very
similar to India. We were surprised to see the weddings being conducted at
Angkor Wat. The ceremonies are much more colorful than in India. A lot of people
will come here from India."
Some Cambodian schools received direct
benefits. Because the convoy got ahead of schedule due to an efficient border
crossing from Vietnam, and the ferry crossing at Neak Loeung en route to Phnom
Penh, they stopped for tea and snacks at Hun Sen Kampong Phnom secondary school
in Leuk Daek district, Kandal province.
"A warm reception was hastily
arranged at only 15 minutes notice, and as a result a spontaneous collection was
made on the spot of the rally participants which allowed us to donate $1,200 to
this school to purchase an electricity generator for lights and fans," said