Harley-davidson, the iconic and globally recognised US motorcycle manufacturer, will soon be roaring into Cambodia with the country’s first dealership set to open in the next few months.
Located across from the Phnom Penh International Airport, the Harley-Davidson dealership is expected to open this June, according to Steve Beattie, general manager of Harley-Davidson Phnom Penh. The franchise rights for Harley are owned by HGB Group, a local investment firm that already has a foothold in the Kingdom’s luxury motorcycle and automotive market.
Beattie was quick to note that the famous motorcycle line is more than just a brand name and has over the decades evolved to invoke a lifestyle among avid Harley-Davidson riders worldwide. He hopes that the showroom will act not only as a dealership but provide a place for riders and enthusiasts to gather before cruising on the Kingdom’s roads.
“The whole point with Harley-Davidson is that it is not purely motorcycle focused,” he said. “When you buy a Harley-Davidson, you then make it your own. You will spend time, thought and money on making that bike something that is very personal for you.”
Cambodia already has a few Harley-Davidson riders who are well acquainted with the brand and they will form the company’s core customer base, Beattie explained. The group will then primarily target the more affluent segment of the population who can afford the costs of high-end motorbikes and gear, he added.
“We are tapping into an existing market with the existing riders because they are our core customers,” he said. “They are the guys that have supported the brand in Cambodia despite not having a dealership, but obviously we also want to broaden that appeal and we want to encourage new customers.”
The dealership will be comprised of a shop offering a wide array of Harley-Davidson motorcycles as well as brand merchandise, accessories, spare parts, riding gear and a full-service mechanic that will be able to handle customisation demands.
Hong Kong financial giant The Bank of East Asia and Sri Lanka’s LOLC announced on Friday that they have jointly acquired a majority stake in Prasac Microfinance, Cambodia’s largest microfinance institution (MFI) by assets, in what could be the largest acquisition of a Cambodian lender to date.
According to a joint company release, The Bank of East Asia (BEA) and LOLC acquired a controlling share of Prasac by purchasing minority stakes held by Dragon Capital Group Ltd, Belgian Investment Company for Developing Countries SA (BIO) and the Netherlands Development Finance Company (FMO).
The acquisition raises LOLC’s existing holding from 22 percent to 70 percent, with BEA holding 21 percent. Prasac retains the remaining 9 percent stake.
The deal was valued at $186 million by Sri Lankan media. Prasac and its shareholders could not be reached yesterday for confirmation, nor was the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) available to confirm whether it had approved the acquisition.
Prasac is Cambodia’s largest deposit-taking MFI with an asset portfolio of $1.3 billion and over $660 million in deposits, according to the joint statement, which added that the deal would help pave the MFI’s path toward becoming a licensed commercial bank.
Sim Senacheert, CEO of Prasac, was quoted in the release as saying that BEA was a strategic investor that would “further contribute to sustainable economic development and financial inclusion in Cambodia”.
David Li, chairman and chief executive of BEA, said the deal marked the financial group’s first foothold in Cambodia and would help it expand its reach to the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).
“Through Prasac, our bank will further strengthen its presence in Southeast Asia. This strategic investment will enable us to better capitalise on the opportunities arising from China’s ‘Belt and Road Initiatives’,” he was quoted as saying.
This is not the first time Prasac has worked toward securing a strategic investor, a move widely seen as the central bank’s requirements for commercial bank licence eligibility.
In August 2016, the NBC scuttled a deal between Prasac and South Korean financial giant Woori Bank for a 50 percent stake, claiming that the Korean lender was not one of the preferred bidder’s acknowledged by the independent regulatory body.
Cambodian MFIs have attracted the interest of international investors, with several large mergers and acquisitions announced in recent years. In January 2016, Thailand-based Bank of Ayudhya reached an agreement to acquire the local MFI Hattha Kaksekar – a deal that was valued at upwards of $140 million.
BEA’s stake in Prasac would mark the entry of Hong Kong’s third-largest bank into the Cambodian market. The financial group reported $98.7 billion in consolidated assets as of the end of last year.
Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday endorsed a Ministry of Environment recommendation to keep the ivory for “scientific research” and exhibitions.
Environment Minister Say Samal yesterday said there were recent requests from the NGO Wildlife Alliance, USAID and the US Embassy to burn the ivory, but he rejected them.
“We don’t believe in burning [it], and as a sovereign country, we should make our own decision,” he said. “Why should it be burned?”
Samal said the Kingdom believes in using the ivory for educational purposes, such as for scientific research and for display at museums.
“We will be working with domestic museums to see if they are interested, but we don’t share the view that the display promotes the killing of elephants,” he said.
While the research on the effectiveness of destroying ivory as a deterrent is not universally accepted, numerous African countries where ivory is poached and many countries that intercept illegal shipments routinely destroy their stockpiles.
Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday during a Ministry of Interior event also questioned why the country should destroy the confiscated ivory.
“I heard that America wanted us to destroy it. No. America has no right to order [the] Khmer administration,” he said, adding that he had agreed to keep it for exhibitions “so that people know it’s from South Africa and was busted in Cambodia”.
Rhinoceros horns would also be displayed, he said, adding that some of the endangered items from Africa are almost extinct, which is why the Kingdom prefers to “take care of” the ivory.
He said that other countries would be allowed to borrow the ivory for their own exhibitions, if the request was made.
Suwanna Gauntlett, CEO for Wildlife Alliance, confirmed that her organisation has made several requests to the Cambodian government and to the US Embassy to destroy the confiscated ivory, but declined to further comment on the issue.
Jay Raman, spokesman for the US Embassy, said he couldn’t provide information on the topic yesterday as the embassy was closed.
Several leaders with other wildlife NGOs declined to comment or referred questions to other people.
Sarah Brook, a technical adviser with the Wildlife Conservation Society, said that she would be “more concerned” about the security of keeping the ivory.
“I would doubt that museums would be able to keep it secure and prevent it from returning to the trade,” she said.
Usual practice in handling illegal ivory is to destroy it or send it back to the country of origin, she said.
“A large number of countries are destroying it to send a message that this is an illegal activity that won’t be tolerated and prevent it from returning to the trade,” she said.
Meanwhile, an official from the Department of Customs and Excise, who declined to be named, yesterday said authorities are still searching for Nguyen Tien Chuong, 31, the suspect believed to be behind a massive 1.3-tonne ivory bust in December.
“We are hunting for him,” he said.
“The ministries of environment and interior had a meeting about this matter to [take] further measures.”
With its operating licence almost in the bag, JC International Airlines is gearing up to launch passenger service next month with two aircraft and an ambitious expansion plan.
The Cambodian-registered airline, managed by China’s Yunnan Jingcheng Group, the parent firm of China’s Ruili Airlines, expects to launch its first flight on March 17.
Initial service will cover domestic routes, flying between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, and Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, according to Cheav Kirirom, the airline’s production manager.
“This is a new brand of airline offering a full range of products and services to passengers, and providing excellent service and comfort, [as well as . . .] reasonable fares and good connections,” he said yesterday.
JC International Airlines has already received two Airbus A320s from Ireland-based air leasing company Avolon. The aircraft, one new and one briefly thrown into service by Air Berlin, will be configured as all-economy class with 180 seats.
According to Kirirom, two additional A320 aircrafts are on order and expected to arrive in June and November, respectively.
“As to plan, we are scheduled to add four aircrafts every year to operate on more prospective routes,” he said.
The additional planes will allow the airline to add international service starting with flights to Ho Chi Minh City, then adding routes to China and ASEAN countries.
Kao Sivorn, general director of the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA), confirmed that JC International Airlines had acquired two A320s for its upcoming operations, and could expect to receive its air operator’s certificate (AOC) by early next month.
“We are now in the process of checking [the licence application,] which is now in the third phase in accordance with international regulation requirements,” he said.
“We expect it will be done and ready to receive its AOC in March.”
According to an operations plan submitted by the airline to the SSCA, and which differs slightly from details provided yesterday by the airline, JC International Airlines has applied to operate weekly service between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, three flights a week between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville, and three flights weekly from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville.
The airline has also applied to fly three times a week between Phnom Penh and Kuala Lumpur, three times a week to Singapore, four times a week to Hong Kong and once weekly to Bangkok.
“The main target of JC is Chinese passengers,” said Sivorn, adding that the airline’s management has laid out plans to operate a fleet of 20 Airbus aircraft by 2020.
JC International Airlines registered at the Ministry of Commerce in June 2014 with $1 million in registered capital. Its total investment is $100 million, according to Sivorn.
“Investment in airlines provides a lot of benefits to all sectors and promotes economic growth,” he said.
Poipet PPSEZ Co Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Phnom Penh SEZ Plc and operator of the soon to be completed Poipet Special Economic Zone (Poipet PPSEZ), signed a memorandum of understanding yesterday with a leading Thai energy provider to supply power to the 66-hectare industrial park.
The agreement signed with B Grimm Power Pcl, a member of Thai B Grimm Group, offers the exclusive right to develop and operate power transmission infrastructure through a power purchase agreement for Poipet PPSEZ, which is in late-stage construction on the outskirts of Poipet. It also guarantees the future right to construct power generation facilities for the industrial zone.
Both parties will now conduct a feasibility study for the construction of an initial 12.4 kilometre, 22 kilovolt transmission line connecting the SEZ with Poipet’s power substation, the two companies said during the signing ceremony.
According to Preeyanart Soontornwata, president of B Grimm Power, the initial investment amount will be between $2 million and $3 million, though the company will provide more capacity according to the needs of the zone’s future tenants.
“For this particular project, the budget is not so big and for the first phase it is about $3 million only, but in the near future we expect that we can expand the substation and also generation [capacity] to provide more reliable and more effective energy,” she told reporters after the agreement signing.
Lim Chhiv Ho, chairwoman of Phnom Penh SEZ Plc, said the power agreement would allow for greater development of high-skill manufacturing, such as electronics, in the Poipet PPSEZ. She added that the company was eyeing investment from energy-intensive Japanese manufacturers, many of which already operate out of the Phnom Penh SEZ.
“As Cambodia, through its industrial development policy, aims to attract more manufacturers that produce high value-added products such as vehicle assembly parts, electronics … and electrical assembly parts, these manufacturers cannot operate with unstable or disruptive electricity supply,” she said during the ceremony.
Representatives of both companies emphasised their optimism for the future of Poipet as an industrial hub given its location on the Thai border and its proximity to Thailand’s largest seaport, Laem Chabang.
After the ministers, dignitaries and survivors of the Khmer Rouge had filed in Saturday evening, and Angelina Jolie had greeted the arrival of King Norodom Sihamoni and Queen Mother Norodom Monineath, the lights in the ruins of the ancient city of Angkor Thom finally dimmed for the world premiere of First They Killed My Father.
For a brief moment, the rustling of insects was the only sound before the audience of more than 1,000 was transported back to April 12, 1975.
An adaptation of Loung Ung’s autobiographical book recounting her and her family’s suffering under the Khmer Rouge, the Jolie-directed film depicts in vivid detail the forced evacuations from Phnom Penh, the journey to the brutal labour camps in the country’s northwest, and, for Ung, the conscription of children as soldiers into the ranks of the Revolutionary Army of Kampuchea. Ung, who is portrayed in a highly emotional performance by child actress Sareum Srey Moch, was five years old when her family was ordered out of the capital.
For some fellow survivors in attendance at the world premiere, the depiction on the big screen was a harrowing trip back to the country’s darkest chapter.
Say Vorphorn, a 45-year-old doctor in attendance, said that while his experience as a child-survivor of the Khmer Rouge could not be compared to Ung’s, the loss of his own father resonated strongly.
“I was 3 years old during that time, but I didn’t suffer as much because my mother was a cook … [but] I feel this deeply inside my heart because my father was killed during that time,” he said.
Ma Rynet, the star of The Last Reel, who played an extra in a scene in which a captured Khmer Rouge soldier is beaten by angry villagers, said that seeing the final product brought her to tears.
“I hope the world will know Cambodia through this film,” she added.
Shot in the country between November 2015 and February 2016, the movie employed more than 3,500 background actors to recreate scenes showing the population transfers and forced collectivisation of the Khmer Rouge, as well as battle sequences from the eventual Vietnamese invasion that toppled the regime. The film is in Khmer, with occasional French and Vietnamese, and will be released later this year on Netflix.
In an interview with The Post, Jolie said that beyond highlighting the potential of Cambodia for filmmakers – foreign and domestic – she hopes the film will in some ways reintroduce the country to international audiences.
“I hope that people will not just look at this film as a history lesson but they will walk away with a new love and respect for the country,” she said. Attending the film with her six children – two of whom are Cambodian – Jolie has pledged to remain involved in supporting the local film industry.
After attending the premiere, Youk Chhang, the executive director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, said the movie represented a new approach to portrayals of the trauma of the Pol Pot regime.
“I think that this film, for the first time, would train [a Cambodian audience] to look for a beauty in the darkness,” he said, noting that human scenes, in which Ung shares a cricket to eat with her sister, or is hit by her brother after stealing rice, “really capture the heart”.
Himself a child survivor, Chhang felt that it accurately captures the emotional complexities of a childhood experience of mass atrocity.
“Children don’t use physical resistance, they use emotion. It’s the only form of resistance to fight [with] … I think Angie [Jolie] captured the complexities of the emotion on the camera.”
Jolie, speaking to The Post after the film’s Saturday press conference at the Raffles Hotel, said that rendering a child’s point-of-view on-screen was a central challenge in orchestrating the camera-work with director of photography Anthony Dod Mantle.
A difficulty was not just having shots at Ung’s low height but deciding “what she will and will not look at”.
“That point of view grows. At a certain point she cannot look at blood, and when she’s older the POV matures and gets hardened and she starts to witness things she didn’t when she was younger,” she said.
Loung Ung, in an interview on Saturday, said that she hoped the film may break misconceptions about the emotional experience of surviving war and genocide.
“I think people will see that it takes more than anger, [and] it takes more than strength to survive. It takes love, it takes soul and we Cambodians have that in spades,” she said.
Another survivor, Sin Nou Visakha, 65, broke into tears as she spoke to The Post after the screening, calling “the image the same as reality”.
She hoped the film could educate Cambodia’s youth about the horrors of the past.
“I want the young children to watch this, more than old people, because we have been through it and some of them don’t believe that we suffered like that.”
First They Killed My Father will be screening in Phnom Penh at Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, February 21, at 6pm and in Battambang on February 23. It will be available on Netflix later this year.
Ticket prices for Angkor Wat are scheduled to increase on Wednesday, with industry experts expressing cautious optimism that despite reports showing tourist spending fell last year, the sharp increase in admission fares at the country’s premier tourist attraction would not deter foreigners from visiting Cambodia.
Starting on Wednesday, foreign visitors to the Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap province will need to fork out almost twice as much for one-day passes, which are set to increase to $37, from $20. Three-day passes will rise to $62, from $40, while week-long passes will cost $72, up from $60.
The higher admission fares, first announced last August, follow similar price hikes at the country’s popular tourist sites. On January 1, the entry fee of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh increased to $10, from $6.25. Entry to the capital’s other top tourist draws, the National Museum and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, rose to $5, from $3.
Carrol Sahaidak-Beaver, secretary-general of the Cambodia Tourism Federation (CTF), said she did not expect these price hikes to have any significant impact on visitor numbers.
“We are not anticipating any negative impact on tourism numbers for either Angkor Wat, the National Museum or Tuol Sleng Museum,” she said yesterday. “The prices have been unchanged for 25 years and were overdue for an increase.”
Sahaidak-Beaver noted that a longer period of adjustment would have helped transition from the old to the new prices. However, the increased expenses should not affect Cambodia’s tourism competitiveness in the region, she added.
“Many tour packages are sold well in advance hence it is difficult to go back and say there has been an increase,” she said. “The new price is competitive to what is offered by our neighbors and internationally, and we fully support the increase.”
Ho Vandy, deputy secretary-general of Cambodia’s National Tourism Alliance, said while government data showed tourists were spending less money during visits to the Kingdom, it was too early to say how higher admission prices would play out.
“We don’t know yet if it will affect the country in a positive or in a negative way,” he said. “Let’s see at the end of 2017 what the results are.”
In its year-end report released last week, the Ministry of Tourism revealed that overall revenue from tourism in Cambodia declined last year despite more visitors. Total revenue dropped $500 million to $3 billion in 2016 as international tourist arrivals increased 5 percent, crossing the 5 million mark for the first time.
Vandy suggested the lower revenue could be the result of increased airline connectivity. He said with more airlines serving Cambodia the country is increasingly becoming a stopover on wider regional trips, leading to shorter stays.
“There are more direct flights connecting Cambodia with the region and there are many airlines operating in the country,” he said. “Tourists are cutting down the length of their stay because of this and are choosing to go to more places during their trip.”
However, Tui Rutten, managing director of First Travel Cambodia, said a growing shift from high-end to budget travellers was likely behind the decline in overall tourism revenue. There are more Chinese tourists visiting Cambodia on cheap package deals and fewer tourists from Western countries, partly because of poor economic conditions in Europe, she explained.
“There have been a lot of Chinese charters coming to Cambodia and I think there has also been an increase in low-cost tourism,” she said. “I feel like there has been a decrease in the number of high-value tourists from Canada, the US and Europe.”
Whether the admission fee hikes of a handful of tourist sites would impact the decision of budget-conscious tourists to visit Cambodia remains unclear. Rutten preferred not to speculate.
After more than two years under construction, Oxley-WorldBridge’s much-anticipated mixed-use development has achieved the topping out milestone.
The successful topping out of The Bridge project, which involves the structure of the building reaching the highest point, was achieved on December 18, 2016, and was formally celebrated at a ceremony yesterday afternoon.
WorldBridge chairman Sear Rithy proudly said the topping out milestone of the project’s twin towers makes the development the tallest building near the Chaktomuk riverbank in the heart of Phnom Penh city, stretching 160 metres into the sky.
“We have good news to tell customers and the general masses,” Rithy said.
“The Bridge project, the first project for Oxley WorldBridge, was completed up to the forty-fifth storey successfully.”
Rithy added that The Bridge project, a joint venture between Singapore’s Oxley Holdings and WorldBridge Land, was among a select few property projects in Cambodia being developed according to schedule.
It’s expected that the decorating, fit out and equipping of units will begin early this year as planned, in time for ownership handover in “2018 or earlier”, Rithy said.
The Bridge development, which began construction in mid-2014 at a cost of more than $300 million, is a luxury condominium development which also boasts grade A offices and includes a 5-storey shopping mall.
According to Rithy, all the 746 condo units have been sold to buyers.
Living in condominiums is the epitome of modern living and The Bridge achieves just that, incorporating luxury and convenience. Most of the units in The Bridge complex offer river views and spectacular sights of the city.
In Cambodia, some major real estate projects have slowed down construction amid financial setbacks and market concerns. When asked what the joint venture’s key to successes was with The Bridge, Rithy said it was due to a great team of experts.
“My company is a developer company, we are not able to build this ourselves, but we have a team of experts who review and monitor the process to build it properly,” he said.
“In addition, we are grateful to the company Sino Great Wall, a professional and trusted partner, for our achievement on The Bridge project.”
After an awesome experience in Vietnam, I am now crossing borders to Cambodia. First stop is Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. It is situated at the confluence of 3 rivers; Mekong, Bassac and Tonle Sap. Phnom Penh is the busiest and wealthiest city in Cambodia. Phnom Penh still exudes provincial charm compared to other modern Asian capitals. […]