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forest

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forest last won the day on April 14 2018

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  1. https://www.phnompenhpost.com/post-depth-business/big-trouble-little-china-0 Big trouble in little China he coastal city of Sihanoukville is undergoing a massive transformation. Once perceived as a seedy haunt for lethargic backpackers and expats, a flood of Chinese tourists and investors has begun to alter the landscape by setting up everything from gaudy casinos to towering luxury resorts as well as restaurants, street stalls and shops on the once-sleepy city streets. But as the beach town changes and the government welcomes the surge in development spending, it is becoming clear that Chinese investment has created a closed loop with few new opportunities for Cambodians, forcing locals out of any potential economic gain. While Sihanoukville has long been a part of the government’s plan to develop the southern coast as Cambodia’s next tourism hotspot after Siem Reap, Taing Socheat Kroesna, director of the Preah Sihanouk Provincial Tourism Department, said that this year has seen a dramatic surge in Chinese visitors primarily drawn to Chinese-run casinos. Currently there are 24 legally registered casinos in Sihanoukville, up from the 15 there were at the end of 2015, he said, with the vast majority owned and operated by Chinese investors looking to cash in on increased flight connections from the mainland. Jin Bei Casino in Sihanoukville. Kali Kotoski “The Chinese are being drawn to Sihanoukville because they like to gamble, and there are more casinos and junket operations that cater to them,” he said, adding that the coastal town is now connected to eight Chinese provinces with regular commercial and charter flights. According to provincial tourism statistics, Chinese arrivals have skyrocketed by a staggering 170 percent in the first nine months of this year, reaching 87,900 arrivals. The total number of foreign tourist arrivals for the first nine months of this year stands at 347,000, an increase of 18.4 percent. While Kroesna explained that the arrivals have spawned a huge increase in Chinese investment, he admitted that the benefits to the economy have been lopsided, with the majority of new jobs going to staff that the Chinese fly in themselves. “The Chinese have their own tourism operators and buses that bring tourists from the airport directly to casinos and resorts. And they have their own restaurants and businesses to cater to them because we don’t have Cambodians with the right skills for the job,” he explained. Kroesna said he hoped that this trend would be short-lived, and that locals would soon benefit from the vast wealth being generated by the coastal tourism sector. “The government needs to control and manage this growth to make sure that not just foreigners are benefitting from more jobs,” he said, adding that the Chinese now account for 5 percent of the 11,000 jobs in the beach town’s hospitality sector. A Chinese tourist enjoys a foot massage at the beach. Sahiba Chawdhary Sok Song, vice president of Preah Sihanouk Chamber of Commerce, downplayed concerns that locals were losing out on the development of what he dubbed “Chinatown”, adding that the main concern was that “dirty” money or speculation was fuelling Sihanoukville’s unprecedented boom. “While there are some labour concerns, we are more concerned that there are Chinese investment commitments that may not materialise,” he said, adding that 20 new Chinese hotel and casino projects are expected to break ground next year. However, he said that land and rental prices have already tripled in certain areas since the beginning of the year as the Chinese have bought entire residential areas and unfinished developments to house their staff. “We need to closely control how much investment is coming in, especially if growth is going to be led by speculative casino investments,” he said. “If we don’t, then we all lose out, especially the land owners who are renting to the Chinese.” Despite the economic potential of hotels, casinos and increased tourism numbers, Cambodia’s gambling industry has long maintained a murky reputation, with the coastal destination rarely earning positive headlines. Major General Kul Phaly, deputy commissioner of the Preah Sihanouk provincial police, admitted that money laundering, illegal casino operations and human trafficking have become acute concerns. “But we are fully capable of handling any criminal element with our team of spies and special expert units that patrol 24 hours a day to check for valid work permits and monitor gaming operations,” he said. While he couldn’t provide statistics for the amount of arrests or deportations the provincial police have made, he did say that special units had raided and shuttered five Chinese-run online casinos so far this year. Meanwhile, The Post reported in October that the police had caught at least 346 Chinese nationalsimplicated in illicit online gaming and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) extortion schemes in 2017 alone. Slot machines at a casino in Sihanoukville. Sahiba Chawdhary Nevertheless, Phaly noted that the police had become more confident in their abilities after the instatement of a new provincial police chief in April 2015. Morale had been even further bolstered by the seeming demise of what he dubbed the “Russian mafia” following the deportation of Russian property tycoon Sergei Polonsky and the ousting of Ostap Doroshenko, the son of Russian businessman Nikolai Doroshenko and a former police officer in Preah Sihanouk province. Even Doroshenko’s eponymous Snake House restaurant and snakebite NGO appears to have fallen prey to Chinese investment, with the once slithering restaurant now festooned with Chinese characters and a single sea turtle remaining in the aquatic tank as the sounds of construction fill the air. “Once we got Polonsky out of the country and Ostap out of our police force here, it got better for us because the Chinese are scared of prison and have more respect for us than the Russians did,” he said, adding that there have been only two notable violent incidents with Chinese due to “drinking and dancing”. However, Jonny Ferrari, managing director of Ferrari Gaming, an online gaming consultancy based in Sihanoukville, said that a lack of effective government regulations in the gambling sector and what he characterised as the authorities’ apparent willingness to accept bribes has created an environment “where it is easier to get a casino licence than a restaurant licence”. “It is no secret that the local authorities can be paid off to look the other way and let unregulated Chinese casinos operate,” he said. “But the problem is that it makes around 90 percent of the Chinese casinos fly by night investments, which can quickly close up shop by breaking lease agreements.” “I am worried that if all they attract is gamblers, it will be a disaster for us.” While Ferrari predicted there would be no slowdown in the near future of new Chinese casinos, each decked out in glittering lights and plastered with advertisements offering easy wins and expensive thrills, he maintained that the day would come when many poorly managed operations would close, allowing big names and players to step in and make Sihanoukville the “new Macau”. But until then, local businesses are struggling to adapt and many are afraid that they will be further edged out by the influx of Chinese investment. By Vanny, who runs the Beautiful Beach 168 bar on Ochheuteal beach, said that the boom of Chinese tourists has hurt local businesses, as many are unwilling to go to Cambodian-owned venues. What’s more, she added, as businesses catering to Chinese tourists push out ones that traditionally catered to Westerners and locals, there are fewer other tourists to patronise the local businesses that remain. “We don’t receive any business from the Chinese,” she said. “I am not happy with the growth of Chinese tourists and investors, and I am worried that if all they attract is gamblers, it will be a disaster for us.” Chinese tourists at a beach in Sihanoukville. Sahiba Chawdhary Restaurant owner Chay Piseth, who runs the Nice Ocean restaurant, was even more vehement about the damage that the unmitigated flow of Chinese tourists and investors would inflict on the once-sleepy town. He fears that his restaurant on Serendipity Road would be shuttered next month after he was handed a letter of eviction three weeks ago saying that an unnamed Chinese investor had purchased the land for “renovations”. “I can’t survive the flood of Chinese tourists and investors because they only support each other and don’t care about locals,” he said. “When I lose my business next month, I will just be another slave to Chinese investors unless the government helps to block them from entering the industry.” “The Chinese view Cambodians as low-class workers, while they take up all the high positions, despite some of us having businesses here for over 10 years,” he said. However, not everyone is bad-mouthing the boom. Robert Heiduczek, a German national who has been operating Sun Tours, a boat service company, for the last 13 years, said he had little sympathy for the local businesses that “have and will continue to close as Chinese set up shop”. “The Cambodian business model down here has never been sustainable, and finally some real cash is just starting to come in,” he said. “How can local businesses sell 50 cent beers along the beach and expect to remain open?” he asked, complaining that local businesses had already cannibalised themselves by keeping prices artificially low to remain competitive. “Chinese investment is the best thing to happen to Sihanoukville and it is finally putting the town on the map.”
  2. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/this-cambodian-city-is-turning-into-a-chinese-enclave-and-not-everyone-is-happy/2018/03/28/6c8963b0-2d8e-11e8-911f-ca7f68bff0fc_story.html This Cambodian city is turning into a Chinese enclave, and not everyone is happy By Anna Fifield SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia — It was a hot, clear day. The kind of day when, a few months ago, the beach here would have been crowded with tourists deciding whether to drink a $1 beer or a $1 fresh coconut juice. Instead, the beach was almost deserted. Women wandered with trays of fresh lobsters perfectly balanced on their heads or carrying kits for performing pedicures, touting in vain for customers. Men lounged on chairs at their restaurants offering barbecued squid and local curries. But the only patrons were stray cats and flies. “We’re not going to be able to feed ourselves soon. Our business is about to die,” said Doung Sokly, a 30-year-old woman who has been selling drinks, snacks and cigarettes from a cart on Independence Beach for eight years. A block away, however, business is booming in the new casinos that have popped up in recent months. They have names such as New Macau and New MGM, and they cater exclusively to Chinese guests. Cambodians are prohibited from gambling. On this sunny afternoon when the beach was empty, the casinos were packed with Chinese customers smoking and slapping down $100 bills on the tables. All around were eagle-eyed Chinese supervisors and gaggles of young local women in short dresses and long eyelashes. China is trying to spread its political and economic influence across the region, particularly through its ambitious “One Belt, One Road” infrastructure- development initiative. And Cambodia is trying to develop its economy without having to adhere to any of the human rights demands that U.S. and European governments tend to insist upon. Those two interests directly coincide in Sihanoukville, a port city on the Gulf of Thailand named after the late king who is still revered as the father of modern Cambodia. It is here that Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s willingness to be embraced by China is most evident. “Sihanoukville is kind of a poster boy for China’s development. On all economic measures, China is number one,” said Carl Thayer, a Southeast Asia expert affiliated with the Australian Defense Force Academy and a former adviser at U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii. “China is definitely trying to displace the U.S., and it’s succeeding wonderfully.” For Hun Sen, who has been in power for 33 years and is taking steps to ensure he will be reelected in a vote scheduled for the end of July, this investment means he is able to boast about economic advances even as democratic institutions backslide. The Cambodian government has allowed extraordinary levels of Chinese investment: Thirty casinos have already been built, and 70 more are under construction. One huge development, the Blue Bay casino and condos, advertises itself as “one of the iconic projects of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative.” The smallest studios start at $143,000, while the most prized apartments cost more than $500,000. The number of Chinese tourists visiting Sihanoukville, a city of 90,000, doubled between 2016 and 2017 to hit 120,000 last year. Restaurants, banks, landlords, pawnshops, duty-free stores, supermarkets and hotels all display signs in Chinese. But with the exception of those working in the hotels and casinos, most Cambodians, whose average income is $1,100 a year, are seeing little benefit from this investment. And resentment is mounting. “My business has halved,” said Chhim Phin, who has run a seafood restaurant on Independence Beach since 2003. “We used to have lots of Western tourists coming here, people who liked to try our food. But Chinese tourists don’t want to eat Khmer food and experience our local customs — they prefer to eat their own food. Chinese tourists like to stay in their bubble.” Next to his restaurant, a plot of land that used to be filled with backpacker bars that held dance parties on the beach has been reduced to rubble, the lease taken over by Chinese developers. And when Chinese customers do come to his restaurant, Chhim Phin is not thrilled with their business. “I don’t speak Chinese, so it’s very difficult to communicate,” he said. “To be honest, I’ve had a very bad experience dealing with Chinese. They’re so rude.” Doung Sokly, operating her cart, does not enjoy interacting with the new arrivals, either. “Western tourists don’t haggle, because they want to try local things. But Chinese tourists really try to get the prices down,” she said. As if on cue, a group of Chinese tourists on the beach erupted into laughter and yelling. “Listen to them. They’re so loud,” she said, glancing over at the group with a look of distaste. “It’s so annoying.” Locals are also worried about organized crime resulting from the casinos, and the increasing incidents of drunken violence. After the publication of reports about the pros and cons of Chinese investment, Beijing’s ambassador acknowledged that “a small amount of low-educated people” from his country were breaking Cambodian laws. Not that Western tourists are always well behaved. Sex tourism is a draw for some, while others have recently gotten into trouble for lewd behavior. One local business owner who is happy with the Chinese influx is Ko Hong. He rents water scooters, charging Westerners $60 for an hour of joyriding. For Chinese customers, the price is $50. “Before it was more seasonal, but now I can earn lots of money,” Ko Hong said. On an average day he makes $200. The main reason for the exodus of Western tourists and influx of Chinese visitors is accommodations, Chhim Phin and other business owners here say. The cheaper hotels and guesthouses that locals and Western tourists have liked have been crowded out by the big Chinese developers, who will pay much more for the land. Those that do remain have trouble hiring staff because they’re being snatched up for much higher wages. “There used to be cheap accommodations here, but not anymore,” said Koeun Sao, a 29-year-old who estimates that his income from driving a tuk-tuk has dropped by 70 percent in the past three months. “Chinese people take cars, not tuk-tuks.” The Chinese investment has not translated into better roads or other infrastructure in a city that struggles with basic plumbing. “All this building they’re doing is only to benefit Chinese,” Koeun Sao said. “It’s good for the landowners but not for ordinary people.” But both the Cambodian and Chinese governments tout their economic cooperation. The Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone, a 4.4-square-mile industrial park where 104 of the 121 companies are Chinese, “stands as a symbol of renewed China- Cambodia friendship by delivering real benefits to the people,” Chinese Premier Li Keqiang wrote for a Cambodian newspaper when he visited in January. While here, Li signed 19 business deals. These included building an expressway between the capital, Phnom Penh, and Sihanoukville to replace the potholed narrow roads that link the cities now, and the construction of a new airport in Phnom Penh. The two countries pledged to more than double the number of Chinese tourists coming to Cambodia to 2 million within the next two years and to boost bilateral trade to $6 billion. “We’ll try to remain here,” Doung Sokly said from behind her cart. “We need to see how things unfold.”
  3. If your on a retirement visa or over the age of 60 you can get into Ramayana Water Park for only 5 or 6 hundred baht....Or at least you could for much of the last year......That's a nice savings over regular price.... Ramayana Water park is quite nice I have been there before.....
  4. Well if the Yuga diagram is correct it shows civilization was much more advanced 14,000 years go than it is now...And in about 10,000 more years we will be super advanced again..
  5. Thanks Sa-teef.......I thought I would check out this forum sense progress on the Secrets forum is moving at a glacial speed.....Peter has made a really nice/clean web site here...
  6. Hi...I do not see general chat Thailand when I am logged in?
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