Tue, Jul 28, 2009 - Page 11 News List

Cambodia launches first flagship since collapsed 2001 bid

AFP , PHNOM PENH

Cambodia launched its new national airline, Cambodia Angkor Air, at a ceremony yesterday, giving the southeast Asian country its first flag carrier since a previous effort folded in 2001.

It is hoped the airline, a joint venture between the government and Vietnam Airlines, will encourage tourism and promote the country, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said during the ceremony at Phnom Penh International Airport.

Hun Sen urged airline officials to compete hard with other carriers to “make Cambodia Angkor Air successful and ensure national revenue.”

The last national carrier, Royal Air Cambodge, folded in 2001 after running up losses of US$30 million.

Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An said Cambodia Angkor Air, which has capitalization of US$100 million, will officially begin flights today, traveling to tourist hub Siem Reap and Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City.

Sok An said that the airline was expected to boost his country’s tourism sector, but “the government will be not responsible for any loss and debt.”

After the opening ceremony, Cambodian and Vietnamese officials flew to seaside resort Sihanoukville and Siem Reap, the gateway to the famed Angkor Wat temples.

Tourism is one of the only sources of foreign exchange for impoverished Cambodia, which is recovering from nearly three decades of conflict that ended in 1998. The kingdom aims to lure 3 million tourists annually by next year. More than 20 foreign airlines, including Japan Airlines and Qatar Airways, currently operate direct flights to Cambodia.

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