Category Archives: Cambodia

Safety at the Compromise of Positive Assumption

Around this Hari Raya holiday, I applied for a few more days off my annual leaves and took the chance to visit home in Phnom Penh for one week.

The landscape of Phnom Penh is rapidly changing. From the plane, a lot of construction sites are within sight.

One of the things I really don’t miss at all about my lifestyle in Phnom Penh is going around on a motorbike and having to fix a flat tire. OMG, having to deal with a flat tire!!!

During my one week trip home, I can’t believe I had to deal with this annoying occurrence. After a dinner with a few friends, while the sky was sprinkling, making my way through a dark road near Russian Market, I felt something was wrong. About 50 m further, it was guaranteed a flat tire – the worst day part of this time off from work.

After a while of walking my motorbike to find a repair shop, a gentleman approached me, asking what had happened and offering to help me take out whatever nail that pierced through and flattened the tyre.

Instead of feeling appreciative and happy for such an act of kindness, I got instantly alert and apprehensive – was it really out of rare good heart or it was out of some foxy intention?

I refused his offer, playing the being-considerate card, as in I didn’t want to trouble him, while I got all imaginative of what could possibly happen during this badly lighted time, to my watch, wallet and the motorbike, if he had been a bad guy.

He then offered to go further on his motorbike to check if there was any repair shop ahead. After a few brief seconds he returned and confirmed there was none in the direction I was heading. He suggested I turned left or went to a place further, close to his house. I decided to turn left and he offered another favour – if I wanted to pop on his bike so that he could help me with speed and more push to drag my bike to find the repair shop.

I continued to refuse the favour, mentioning my sheer reluctance to trouble him. Plus I really didn’t think I could drag the motorbike on the ride that he wanted to give me.

I kept reassuring him that I’d be fine on my own and he needn’t trouble himself. He bought it and left.

A mentality, a context, a reflex has become affixed; the more we hear, the less we trust. We have come to question good deeds, kind gestures, for fear of risks and harms. We become less optimistic about our society, our neighbours, our fellow countrymen. 

The odds can be our fear is true, as much as the fact that our lens, mentality, assumption, doubts, and fear belittle a truly good heart, harming the dignity and good will of a rare kind being.

If I had to be put in the same situation again, I would do the exact same thing. Prevention is better than cure. What would you do in such situation?

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About Cambodia on “From Third World to First”

It’s been a long but very interesting reading. It’s been inspiring and eye-opening. There are lessons about leadership, about relationship, about politics, about purposefulness, about confidence …. all of which I find incredibly empowering.

In addition to all above, here’s a short extract that I found really captivating and moving – definitely one of my favorite parts of the book.

“[…] I prefer to remember Cambodia as the oasis of peace and prosperity in the war-torn Indochina of the 1960s. Choo and I made our first visit to Phnom Penh, its capital, in 1962. Prince Norodom Sihanouk personally greeted us at the airport and had dancers in traditional costume scatter flower petals on the red carpet as we walked to the car after I had inspected a guard of honor. Phnom Penh was like a French provincial town, quiet and peaceful with wide boulevards reminiscent of the Champs Elysees in Paris lined with trees and flanked by side roads also shaded by trees. There was even a monumental archway, a Khmer version of the Arc de Triomphe, at the center of a major crossroads, the Place de e’independence. We stayed at the Palais du Gouvernement, formerly the residence of the French governor general, by the Mekong River. Sihanouk himself lived in the old palace. He entertained us to dinner in grand style, then flew us in his personal Russian aircraft to see Angkor Wat.

Sihanouk was an extraordinary personality, highly intelligent and full of energy and joie de vivre. He had the airs and graces of an educated French gentleman, with allt he accompanying gestures and mannerisms, and spoken English the French way. Medium in height, a little rotund, he had a broad face with flared nostrils like the stone carvings on the temples around Angkor Wat. He was an excellent host who made each visit a memorable and enjoyable occasion. His banquets of French haute cuisine, with the French wines and beautiful cutlery to match, were a treat. I remember going to his palace in the provincial of Batambang, driving up to a raised entrance typical of driveways in French chateaux. As we arrived, short Cambodian guards, looking dwarfed by their thigh-high gleaming black Napolenonic boots with helmets to match, saluted with glinting swords. The reception and banquet halls were luxuriously furnished and air-conditioned. There was a Western and a Cambodian orchestra. Foreign diplomats were in attendance. It was a royal occasion.

The prince was mercurial, hypersensitive to criticism. He would answer every press article that was in any way critical. Politics for him was the press and publicity. When he was overthrown in the 1970 coup he said that he sought refuge in Beijing because he feared for his life. I believe that had he returned to Cambodia then, no soldier would have dared to shoot him on arrival at the airport. He was their god-king. He had kept Cambodia an oasis of peace and plenty in a troubled, war-ravaged Indochina by maintaining a precarious balance between the communists and the West. He sought the friendship and protection of the Chinese while he kept his ties with the West through France. When he stayed in Beijing instead of returning to defy the coup makers, the old Cambodia was destroyed.

I met him again when he came to Singapore in September 1981 for talks on forming a coalition with the Khmer Rouge. It was a changed Shihanouk. He had gone back to Phnom Penh and been a captive of the Khmer Rouge. He had been through a harrowing time; many of his children and grandchildren had been killed by Pol Pot, and he himself was in fear for his life. The old bouncy Sihanouk had been destroyed. He laughter, the high-pitched shill voice when he got excited, his gestures—all were more muted. He was a living tragedy, a symbol of what had happened to his country and his people. The Chinese had rescued him just before the Vietnamese captured Phnom Penh at the beginning of 1979. He appeared before the UN Security Council to speak against the Vietnamese invasion, and he became the international symbol of Cambodian resistance. For a long time he was unforgiving and adamant against a coalition government with the Khmer Rouge.

After the Khmer Rouge occupied Phnom Penh, the Cambodians, or Kampucheans as they called themselves during Pol Pot’s regime, were not active in the region. A senior minister, Ieng Sary, visited me in March 1977. He was soft-spoken, round-faced, and chubby; he looked the softest, kindest person, one who would look after babies tenderly. He was the brother-in-law and trusted aide of the infamous Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge leader who had slaughtered from 1 to 2 million Cambodians out of the a population of 7 million, including most of the educated, Cambodia’s brightest and best. He made no reference to this genocide and I decided against questing him. He was bound to deny, as their Khmer rouge broadcasts did, that it ever took place. Ieng Sary was realistic. He wanted trade—barter trade. He needed spare parts for factories, pumps for irrigation, and outboard motors for their finishing boats. In exchange, he offered fish from the Tonle Sap, Cambodia’s famous inland lake which flooded every year and produced excellent fish. The barter trade did not flourish (they had problems with logistics), so we had little trade or anything else to do with them.

Relations between Vietnam and Cambodia deteriorated with border clashes. Vietnam attached Cambodia in 1978 and captured it in January 1979. Thereafter, Cambodia existed in my consciousness only through our activities in and out of the UN to garner votes to block the Vietnamese puppet government from taking over Cambodia’s UN seat, and through our support for Cambodian resistance forces operating from the Thai-Cambodian border.

Sihanouk’s son, Prince Ranariddh, I had met several times between 1981 and 1991. His father had placed him in charge of the royalist forces near the Thai border with Cambodia. Ranariddh resembled his father in voice, mannerisms, facial expression, and body language. He was darker-complexioned and smaller, more equable in temperament and less swayed by the mood of the moment, but otherwise much in the same mold. He had his father’s fluency in French and had taught law in Lyon University before he took over the leadership of the royalist forces.

When I inspected their training camp in northeast Thailand in the 1980s I noted that it was not well organized and lacked military spirit. It was the best Ranariddh could do because, like him, his generals and officers spent more time in Bangkok than in the camp. As we were supporting them with weapons and radio equipment, I felt disappointed. After the 1991 settlement, the big aid donors took over. Ranariddh became the first prime minister (with Hun Sen as second prime minister) when his party won the 1993 UN-organized election. When we met in Singapore that August, I warned him that the coalition was a precarious arrangement. The military, police, and administration belonged to Hun Sen. If he wanted to survive, Ranariddh had to win over a part of Hun Sen’s army and police officers and some of the provincial governors. Being called the first prime minister and having his man appointed dense minister were of little value when the officers and troops were loyal to Hun Sen. He probably did not take my words to heart. He might have believed that his royal blood would assure him the support of the people, that he would be irreplaceable.

I met Hun Sen in Singapore in December that same year. He was a totally different character, a tough survivor of the Khmer Rouge, a prime minister appointed by the Vietnamese in the 1980s but agile enough to distance himself from them and be acceptable to the Americans and West Europeans. He left an impression of strength and ruthlessness. He understood power, that it came from the barrel of the gun, which he was determined to hold. Once the Khmer Rouge was on the decline, and Ranariddh could no longer team up with them to challenge him, Hun Sen ousted him in 1997 and took complete control, while remaining nominally second prime minister. Sihanouk had become king again after the 1993 election, but his poor health and frequent absences from Cambodia for cancer treatment in Beijing had taken him of the cockpit of power now occupied completely by Hun Sen and his army.

Cambodia is like a porcelain vase that has been smashed into myriads of shards. To put them together will be a slow and laborious task. As with all the mended porcelain, it cannot withstand much pressure. Pol Pot had killed 90 percent of Cambodia’s intelligentsia and trained personnel. The country now lacks a coherent administration. The people have been accustomed to lawless conditions for so long that they are no longer law-abiding. Only the gun is feared.

The people of Cambodia are the losers. The country is crushed, its educated class decimated, its economy devastated. Hun Sen’s coup caused Cambodia’s admission into ASEAN to be postponed. It was eventually admitted in April 1999 because no country wanted to spend US$2 billion for another UN operation to hold fair elections. Cambodia had had 27 years of war since Lon Nol’s 1970 coup. Its present leaders are the products of bitter, relentless struggles in which opponents were either eliminated or neutralized. They are utterly merciless and ruthless, without humane feelings. History has been cruel to the Cambodians.]

Page 324-328, “From Third World to First” by LKY


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Have your name on it! ;)

Woohoo! Have you seen Coke cans with the customized names on them? I have ones for my sister and her friend. They’re going to keep these forever. Thank you, Coca Cola! These cans are going to be available in the market very soon. You can also find ones for all family members and friends as a gift for them!
យូហ៊ូ អ្នក​មាន​បាន​ឃើញ​កំប៉ុង​កូកា​ថ្មី​ដែល​មាន​ឈ្មោះ​ហើយ​ឬនៅ? ខ្ញុំ​បាន​ទិញ​វា​១​ដែរ​ឲ្យប្អូនស្រីនិង​មិត្តរបស់នាង។ ពួក​គេ​ប្រាកដ​​ជា​នឹង​ទុក​វា​រហូត​ហើយ​មើល​ទៅ ហាហា។ អរគុណ​កូកា​កូឡា​! កំប៉ុង​ទាំង​នេះ​នឹង​មា​ន​លើ​ទីផ្សារ​ក្នុង​ពេល​ឆាប់ៗ​នេះ។  អ្នកអាច​រក​កំប៉ុងបែបនេះសំរាប់ក្រុមគ្រួសារ​និងមិត្តភក្តិអ្នក​ អោយ​ជា​កាដូ​ដល់​ពួក​គេ!
Longdy_17 May

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Something Special for Our Friends?

Life wouldn’t be the same without great friends. Share this special friends Coke can with your best ones and let them know how much they mean to you.
ជីវិត​ពិត​ជា​មិន​ដូច​គ្នា​ទេ​បើ​គ្មាន​មិត្តភក្តិ។ ចែក​រំលែក​កូកា​កំប៉ុង​ថ្មី នេះទៅកាន់​ពួក​ម៉ាក​សំខាន់​អ្នក​ ហើយ​ឲ្យពួក​គេ​ដឹង​ថា​ពួក​មាន​ន័យ​ប៉ុន្មាន​ចំពោះ​អ្នក។
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ShareACoke with Your Classmates

How cool is that? A Coke specially designed for those to present and dedicate to their friends and classmates! Share with the ones who make schools fun.

អីក៏ឡូយ​យ៉ាង​នេះ!!​ កំប៉ុង​កូកា​សំរាប់​ពួក​ម៉ាក! ចែក​រំលែករំលែក​​កំប៉ុង​ពិសេស​នេះ​​ ជាមួយ​នឹង​មិត្ត​រួម​សាលាអ្នក​ទៅ​! ជាមួយនឹងមនុស្សដែលធ្វើអោយសាលារៀនពោរពេញទៅដោយភាពសប្បាយរីករាយ!

‪#‎ShareACoke‬ Coca-Cola Coca-Cola Company

Longdy_14 May

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Happy Mother’s Day!

How often do we get to make our Mom feel special? Now you can just by giving her the ‘Mom’ Coke can to make her happy on Mother’s Day :)))

តើអ្នកអាចធ្វើឲ្យម៉ាក់របស់អ្នកមានអារម្មណ៌ពិសេសញឹកញាប់ប៉ុនណ្ណា? ឥលូវអ្នកអាចធ្វើបាន ដោយគ្រាន់តែជូនកំប៉ុងកូកាមានអក្សរ “អ្នកម៉ាក់” ដើម្បីអបអរទិវាមាតាថ្ងៃនេះ!! ‪#‎ShareACoke‬ Coca-Cola Coca-Cola Company


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The Joy of Sharing

Last Sunday as I was doing my little grocery and I came across something very familiar; the hypermart seemed rather red and a bunch of customers were gathering around a big pile of boxes of one of all-time favorite red-canned drinks – Coca-Cola.

As i went closer to peek, I realized it was the Share-A-Coke campaign – the same campaign that I just saw my friends posted about on Facebook the other day, which has recently took Cambodia markets by storm. The Cambodia Beverage Company introduced Coca Cola cans customized in Khmer in Cambodia; people just got thrown into the vibe  of sharing, giving, and receiving – of the campaigns with local names and customization typical of Cambodians and their lifestyle. Words that we all can relate to – like ឪពុក​ (father), ម្តាយ (mother), ប្អូនស្រី (sister), etc. are clearly visible on each Coca Cola can, available at local store across the country.

What a cool thing to do – thinking of someone to share our love with, with a special can of Coke!

Today, I’m sharing and sending my love all the way to Cambodia, to my beloved people – my sister and my​ grandmom. I hope they enjoyed the cold fizzling drink amidst the hot Cambodian summer, as much as they felt the miss I’ve sent along with the Cokes.


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Heroes of the Modern World

Recently I came across a few things online, all at different times and somehow about different things, but they seem to share a connection – a connection that I find rather intriguing.

A few months ago I spent a few good hours watching and being memorized by the legacies of a few individuals whose lives left so much impact on the modern world. Italy gave the world Galileo Galilei, Britain gave us Isaac Newton, and Germany/Switzerland is home to the legendary Albert Einstein. Their lives were studied and made part of history lessons and lessons of many other disciplines of science. Their findings and work gave birth to limitless possibilities of the modern knowledge. It’s almost as intriguing to contemplate on the real size of the universe, as to think how the world would be if the theory of relativity of Einstein was never formulated, was never recorded, or was forever lost beyond Einstein’s generation.

In the documentary about Galileo Galilei, the life of his daughter and their relationship was rather important to the storyline and what was mentioned as uncertain about this relationship was how Galilei was to her daughter, his feeling and affection towards her. They were mostly separated and their communications was by exchanging letters, and the depiction of this father-daughter relationship was written up and told based on the letters that she wrote to him; not one single letter from Galilei to his daughter was retrieved. This got me to wonder – how would Galilei, Einstein and Newton otherwise be to the modern world if the records of their lives and their findings had never been retrieved? Of course, to us, they would have been just a nobody, just like millions of other human beings that have stepped on this Earth.

And here I am, among the people that live thousands of miles away, in Cambodia, a tropical country in Southeast Asia with more than 2000 years of history. Having marveled at Italy, Germany and Britain for giving these heroes, these geniuses, I felt somehow belittled by the question – who has this 2000+ year old civilizations produced for the world? not one?

Recently, I came across a few other things, through facebook, through other social media platforms, and through some random conversations I had with friends. Look at this:


Have you heard of Angkor Wat? It is one of a thousand ancient temples built far before Galieli was born, in Cambodia, by the Khmer Empire. And seems like its architect, sculptors, or engineers were aware of dinosaurs – species that went extinct 65 million years ago. Maybe this ain’t really a dinosaur? But what if it is? How did they come to know of such creatures, without internet, without airplanes, without today’s carbon dating technology? Maybe Cambodia was also home to great minds, to geniuses whose work could forever change the modern science. It’s not just this dinosaur thing; how such gigantic structure was completed in just 35 years, how a lot of things were designed semantical (or in a certain clever way) to the positions of the stars (in certain astronomical sense), and how the ancestors of this small, underdeveloped country were the architects of the largest city/civilization in the continent before the Industrial Revolution still have left today’s greatest minds baffled.

What if the lives, the learning, the glamour and the knowledge of the great minds behind all of this ancient mega-city had been as well recorded, and had found their ways to enrich the intellects of today? Maybe Cambodia did have some amazing legacies highly valuable for the modern knowledge.

Unfortunately, this will forever be just a what-if and a mystery. And civilizations like ones of Petra, the Pyramids of Gaza, the Mayan Pyramids and many more must have also been home to some of the greatest minds, architects, scientists, mathematicians, physicians…, whose legacies were unfortunately as well lost with times.

Human civilizations would have been very different; technologies to travel through space and time would already be part of life as we know it. By this century we might probably already know someone from Earth that had migrated to another planet or even another universe to call to.

By the way, here are a few videos that inspires this post.

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A Brief Escape: Koh Kood, Trat Province, Thailand

Early this year I managed to have a really pleasant trip to a less touristic resort of Thailand, reachable by car within just some 15 mn away from the south-west part of Cambodia that borders Thailand. The resort is still not at all crowded (we were almost their only 25 customers) and just about 1.5 hours by boat from a very low-keyed and relatively smaller, but rather beautiful, island of Thailand, Koh Kood.

Unbeatable hospitality:

The resort was run by a Cambodian, by ethnicity, lady, who migrated to Thailand such a long long time ago that she could speak Khmer only with a very strong Thai accent. She’s incredibly helpful and friendly. I guess, that’s probably the reason why everyone that we met in the resort was all very hospitable – a living example of culture being a shadow of one’s leadership.

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I was not the one organizing the trip; a few friends of ours were, and according to them, the experience working with the lady was pleasant; the negotiation (on prices, and activities) were brief and easy, as she was very accommodating. For a group of about 25 people, about 70 USD was charged of each person, covering a two night stay in 2 to 5 beds bungalows, which are only a stone-throw away from the sea, with 3 meals including a nice barbecue on the second evening in a garden that sits among a beautiful evening’s lighting, just between a pool and the beach.

Here are some of the food we were pampered with during our stay. 🙂

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Little, but incredibly soothing, things to do:

How about an early morning swim in a pool by the bungalow, with the sound of high-tide waves splashing against concrete walls? How about another swim in the late evening or in the am before bed?


How about a late afternoon stroll along the beach, with a beautiful sun setting in the horizons?

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How about another stroll with our friends along the beach at night, further and further away from all the lights, to find the darkest spot so that we could look up into the starry sky? We were so hopeful to get the majestic view of what constitutes of our Milky Way, but no matter how far we walked from all the lights around, we couldn’t escape; there were even lights of fishing boats far off in the dark horizon. Anyhow, it was still a beautiful view.

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How about a day escape to an island off the mainland to discover more about what natures have to offer? For about 40 dollars per person (return), we got onto a private boat and took a close-to-2-hour little-bumpy journey to Koh Kood. We first hopped onto a little pick-up speedboat for a short few minute ride towards a bigger boat that anchored in a deep-enough water. Then on we went, further and further away from the mainland. Further we went, we started noticing the change of look and movement of the sea, as if water that surfaces different depths were made up of different textures – from little choppy, splashy waves, to more serene, more calm, thicker look. The trip was fascinating, but sadly not fun for all, as some of us got sea-sick and had to lie down, as pale as ghosts, waiting anxiously for the boat to reach shore.

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How about snorkeling for some beautiful, still untouched coral reefs? Yes, we stopped at a part of the island (to which admission is still free).


How about a hilly drive into different parts of the island – one was to a natural waterfall, with icy cold still water to swim, and then to a beach with paper-white sand? We didn’t have that much time to lie sunbathing on the beach, though – just a few minutes to breathe in sea-fresh air and take a nice group photo. If you have more time, you may want to spend a night on the island.


How about a barbecue dinner with fresh sea food, with dim lighting, and some music in the background? How about some alcohol to entertain the night and as the night grew older, some fast music to get our grooves moving and to get our muscles loosened up?


How to Get there?

If you would like to visit the island, I think it’s best to stay at the resort and take a day trip or two to the island. You can get there by taking a 45mn flight from Bangkok to Trat Airport (which cost about 70 USD one-way) or take a 4-hour bus/van from the Sovannaphumi airport.

For us, we simply took a bus from Phnom Penh. It took us about 6 hours (about 7 dollars one way) to reach Koh Kong (a coastal province that borders Trat, Thailand, and then we got picked up by the resort crew for a 15mn drive to the resort from the border. If you take this route, you can also take the advantage of spending a day or two in Koh Kong; actually you can replicate a similar itinerary in Koh Kong, with a similar or even lower budget.

So if you are going to take one, have a blast!

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Reforms at the Ministry of Commerce

My morning was well-spent attending a seminar delivered by the Minister himself, where he talked about new reforms that the Ministry has been working on, so that it can optimize its role in serving the development of Cambodia. It was inspiring to see and listen to a leader of such passion, ideas, ambition and good heart for Cambodia and like my friend said, I hope it was all genuine and true.


For those that were not there at the event, let me share a few things that I noted down from the remark and presentation that the Minister Sun Chanthol delivered:

Elimination of C/O (Certification of Origin): He said, unlike before, exporting to countries like the US do not require certificates of origin anymore, so there’s no need to create hassles by requiring our farmers, investors and businessmen to waste resources and slow down their operation by requesting issuance of C/O from the MoC. A C/O costs 38$ and the making of it needs signatures and stamp print of certain authority at the Ministry, which also incurs more workload for the Ministry. This might also mean less revenue for the Ministry but they are willing to trade this for more efficiency and for encouragement for our investors/businessmen/exporters.

Online Platform: The Ministry aims to put in place an efficient online platform to serve the needs of entrepreneurs and relevant stakeholders. Some officers will be sent to study good case practices of online operation from the government of Singapore, so that in the future, we all don’t have to endure unnecessary red tapes of, for example, registering a certain trademarks or names. The idea is so that certain names/trademarks/brands etc. can be checked for availability online and the registration process only includes several simple steps, all of which can be completed online from the comfort of our own room.

Research Institute for Farmers: With the support of World Bank (about 60,000 USD in funding), the Ministry is investing in a research institute that works on collecting and analyzing data to arrive at valuable information to provide to our local farmers so that they can make well informed decisions. Currently, a lot of farmers make some really big decisions by following the crowd and different rumors, which sometimes results in big losses and substantial drop in the values of their production. Lack of information is seen as a root cause to this problem and the institute is meant to tackle exactly this.

Hotline: Highly responsive hotline will be put in place so that any irregularities, including corruption, violation of human rights, or any problems concerning food and agricultural sectors etc. can be instantly, and in a simple way, reported.

Great Effort in Attracting Investors: The Ministry and authorities involved have put in big efforts in activities that can promote Cambodia as a golden destination for investment. Cambodia has been presented as the centre of ASEAN. “Invest in Cambodia, we’ll have 14.7 million customers; Invest in Cambodia and you’ll have 600 million customers (ASEAN population) at your doorsteps.” The Minister has been travelling to potential countries, sometimes with groups of local businessmen, to entice different stakeholders to come invest in Cambodia.

Online Presence: It has been 7 months since the creation of MoC’s facebook fan page. Currently there are about 34k likes, which is expected to grow to 100k soon. The Ministry is also reforming their website, renovating its look and ensuring high level of transparency towards the public through the highly engaging world of the internet. IMAG2564

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