Man about town: 25 July 2014

Man about town: 25 July 2014

While downtown Siem Reap has undergone somewhat of a beautification make-over with many streets and roads also repaired and asphalted, major roads in the rest of the city have become an absolute disgrace, especially the larger dirt roads – rains have washed dirt away, water-filled holes have appeared and the roads have become insane muddy quagmires that on some stretches require a heavy-duty 4WD for successful navigation.

Busy Taneuy Street is a prime example – in some stretches this road is almost impassable. Elsewhere around town, construction has begun with footpaths dug up. And of course, with the rain, the newly dug up areas have become bogs isolating some guesthouses and shops. Great minds at work.

Siem Reap-based social networks have been busy postulating the usual conspiracy theories in the wake of the downing of flight MH17, and of course major media outlets throughout the world have been busy pumping all sorts of information and misinformation.

Many news outlets have also drawn attention to the ill-fated Korean airliner flight 007 which was shot down on September1, 1983, by a Soviet Su-15 interceptor in the Sea of Japan, killing all 269 passengers and crew, including an American House of Reps politician, Lawrence McDonald.

At first the Soviet Union, as it then was, denied knowledge, but later fessed up, claiming that the aircraft was on a spy mission. Perhaps they figured James Bond was on board Fight 007.

But while this incident gets a fair amount of airing, the world is virtually silent about another airliner, Iran Air Flight 655, shot down on July3, 1988, killing all 290 passengers including 66 children. This Airbus A300 was on its usual flight path over Iran’s territorial waters, en route from Tehran to Dubai, when it was shot down by a surface to air missile fired from the US Navy guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes. Initial claims by the US Navy about why it shot down the passenger plane were somewhat murky.

Interestingly, America, and perhaps the world, seems to have collective amnesia about this tragic incident.

On October 16 last year, the Washington Post ran an article headlined, ‘The Forgotten story of Iran Air Flight 655.’The Post’s journalist Max Fisher commenced his article writing, “If you walked into any high school classroom in the United States and asked the students to describe their country's relationship with Iran, you'd probably hear words like ‘enemy’ and ‘threat,’ maybe ‘distrust and ‘nuclear.’ But ask them what the number 655 has to do with it, and you'd be met with silence.”

Fisher ended his piece with the observation, “Americans might not know about Flight 655. But Iranians surely do -- they can hardly forget about it.”

And while everybody in the developed world now surely knows of flight MH17, with its attendant heated rhetoric from the US, few of us have been reminded about Iran Air Flight 655.

Earlier in the month TTG Asia released data from Jones Lang LaSalle's Cambodia Hotel Market Update for July 2014. This suggested Siem Reap is in need of yet more hotels, especially internationally-branded hotels.

To quote, “Occupancies have hovered around 60 per cent from 2011 to 2014, while the luxury segment has seen a seven per cent increase to US$150 in ADR during the same period. JLL predicts growth in overall hotel performance due to the increase in the number of tourist arrivals outpacing additions to hotel inventory.

“The city has 188 hotels, 205 guesthouses and 19 resorts but only a handful of international brands, namely Sofitel, Le Méridien, Raffles, Anantara, La Residence (Orient Express), Park Hyatt, Amansara and Best Western.”


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