In a vote of confidence in Cambodia, the German electronics giant Siemens AG opened
its Phnom Penh office on July 15, eleven days before national elections.
While Siemens covers a worldwide waterfront - electrical appliances, power generation,
telecommunications, transport, industrial construction, high-tech health care - the
initial office staff in Cambodia will consist of four: Managing Director Wolfgang
Kitz, an accountant, a secretary and a receptionist.
According to Kitz, the company will not be building a factory, but will be looking
for business opportunities to provide services and products that the country needs.
Kitz paid his first visit to Phnom Penh in April 1997 while he was business development
manager at the Siemens office in Kuala Lumpur. On his second day, he met Wayne Tan,
a Singaporean who has been running a trading company in Phnom Penh for six years.
Over the course of 12 more visits Kitz met Second Prime Minister Hun Sen, Prince
Norodom Ranariddh and scores of ministers and businessmen. Tan is now Siemens' local
"Everyone tells me that power is the first need here," Kitz said. "Factories
work off generators and this is expensive. Siemens offers solar power, gas turbines,
"I estimate a $5 million investment over an initial 2-3 year stage," he
said. "We're not here for the short term. If we move into a country, we never
On a personal note, Kitz said: "I was attracted to Phnom Penh because it is
the real Asia, while Kuala Lumpur could be any city in the world."
Kitz maintained that besides making a profit he would like to help Cambodians to
get the type of technical education that his company provides for its Malaysian employees.
Recently married to Shan San, a Chinese national, Kitz said: "I feel at home
here... I like the Asian mentality, their way of doing business. My partner here
is also my friend. This makes work a lot easier. In Germany, after you do business,
you go your separate ways. Here you share your private lives.
"This takes longer and it explains why I made so many visits here. And I couldn't
convince our Munich headquarters to go ahead with the project after just a few trips.
But now I believe 100 percent in Cambodia."
Kitz was in Phnom Penh during the violence of July 1997 when Hun Sen ousted then-First
Prime Minister Prince Ranariddh.
"I was shocked," he admitted. "From the rooftop of the Intercontinental
Hotel, I watched the rockets and grenades go off. The smoke was coming from three
army centers and, later, the airport. But when I watched CNN, their version was very
different. 'What country is this?' I thought. I don't believe in CNN.
"Actually, things improved a lot after the fighting... Cambodia's disadvantage
is its history. People think of Cambodia as Pol Pot and the Killing Fields. Like
they thought of Germany as Hitler and concentration camps."
At a Siemens reception on July 13, acting German Ambassador Susanne Baumann pointed
out another image problem.
"This courageous decision requires that the future democratically elected government
meets with confidence by recognising the rule of law and taking decisive action against
corruption, because without respect for the rule of law, serious business is not
possible," Baumann said.
"I sincerely hope the engagement of Siemens in Cambodia will be of mutual benefit."
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