Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Violent image still poses problem in Hong Kong



Violent image still poses problem in Hong Kong

Violent image still poses problem in Hong Kong

Despite the Minister of Tourism's upbeat projections for the country's tourism

industry, travel agents in Hong Kong say Cambodia still conjures up images of

horror and war for most people.

"Package Tour of Killing Fields" and

"Horror Prison" reads an advertisement in a leading daily Hong Kong newspaper. A

trip to Angkor Wat is billed as an optional extra but costs more.

Jacqui

Donaldson, manager of promotions and public relations at Dragonair, an airline

which operates two direct flights a week to Phnom Penh, says visitors fear they

will be shot at in Cambodia.

"People are terrified of going there. They

have no idea of what else to expect," says Donaldson, adding that Dragonair,

which uses A320 airbuses, has only had a quarter of its seats booked since the

service started on Aug 3 last year.

Hong Kong travel agent William Lau,

who sells a Cambodia package trip through Marvel Tours, has never been to

Cambodia does not know any Cambodians, and believes he is unable to paint a more

positive picture of Cambodia for travelers.

But, Peter Chan, country

manager of Dragonair, believes the situation will improve. All flights over

Easter are full and they have reduced the cost of a return ticket from $701 to

$450, to compete with Cambodia International Airlines' fare of $403.

"People aren't thinking so much now about Khmer Rouge and security," he

claims. "These days they're thinking more about Angkor Wat."

Nevertheless, discouraging articles continue to appear in Hong Kong

newspapers. The Eastern Express, Hong Kong's newest English-language newspaper,

carried a front page story on Phnom Penh in its feature section last week. A

half-page photograph shows a dark street with soldiers armed with assault rifles

arresting a frightened motorcyclist.

"Cambodia is losing the battle

against crime and corruption," the story reads, after giving details about car

thefts with gunmen bursting into compounds demanding car keys. The story tells

of travelers on the Mekong river being robbed by pirates, and French tourists

being attacked by armed bandits after being dragged from their car. The new

government, the story claims, "is rotten to the core".

But the country's

bad image could soon change if Tan Mau Ieng succeeds in his ambition to promote

his homeland. Tan, one of the few Cambodians living in Hong Kong, runs a travel

agency. He hopes more travelers will put Cambodia on their itinerary if he can

become the main Cambodian Tourist Office and Consulate. "I can do propaganda for

the country and encourage tourists."

He has already approached the Vice

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Uch Kiman, with his proposal. He also is liaising

with the country's new airline, Royal Air Cambodge, in a plan to become their

official representative in Hong Kong.

His agency, located in Prat

Avenue, close to other travel agencies in busy Nathan Road in Kowloon, is

currently known as Vietnam Travel Development Company. With Indochina as its

focus, it will shortly be renamed. Tan took it over last year at a cost of HK$1

million, and already has clients such as Princess Bopha Devy, who passes through

Hong Kong en route to Beijing to visit her father, King Sihanouk.

"Hong

Kongers think that it's still war in Cambodia," admits Tan, who left Cambodia

for France in 1970. He returned to Asia a year ago. "But Chinese businesses here

are interested in Cambodia," he says, "particularly since China has such a good

relationship with the King," says Tan who speaks fluent Cantonese, Mandarin,

French, Khmer, English and Chow Tchou, a dialect.

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Phnom Penh placed in two-week lockdown

    The government has decided to place Phnom Penh in lockdown for two weeks, effective April 14 midnight through April 28, as Cambodia continues to grapple with the ongoing community outbreak of Covid-19, which has seen no sign of subsiding. According to a directive signed by Prime Minister

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Culture ministry: Take Tuol Sleng photos down, or else

    The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has told Irish photographer Matt Loughrey to take down the photos of Khmer Rouge victims at Tuol Sleng Genocidal Museum which he allegedly colourised and altered to show them smiling. The ministry said Loughrey's work is unacceptable, affecting

  • Cambodia gears up for muted New Year festival

    The recent curfew and restrictions imposed in the capital and other Covid-19 hotspots were intended to break the chain of transmission, Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine said as municipal and provincial authorities issued new directives banning certain activities during the upcoming Khmer New Year

  • Covid-19 vaccination now obligatory

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on April 11 issued a sub-decree making Covid-19 vaccination compulsory for individuals unless they have a medical certificate proving they have pre-existing health conditions that prevent them from doing so. «This applies to all members of the armed forces and civil servants