WILD THENG TALKING SHOP WITH A CAMBODIAN TYCOON
(FORTUNE Magazine) – When Royal Air Cambodge charged Cambodian tycoon Theng Bunma $600 for excess baggage earlier this year, he borrowed a pistol from one of his bodyguards and shot out the tire of the Boeing 737 from which he had just disembarked.
Odd behavior for a businessman, you might think. But in today's Cambodia--where former dictator Pol Pot has reportedly been taken prisoner by his troops and supporters of the country's two Prime Ministers have battled in the streets--Theng's shoot-from-the-hip style fits right in. He is president of the Phnom Penh Chamber of Commerce, and says his Cambodian investments, which include a hotel, a bank, and an import-export business, are now worth more than $400 million. FORTUNE's Anthony Paul interviewed Theng recently in Phnom Penh; excerpts follow. (Theng, speaking through an interpreter, didn't wait for questions.)
Theng: You can ask me whatever you like but please report accurately, or I will file a complaint in court about you. Please do not play games with me. There are some journalists who have defamed me by writing that I am the head of a drug-smuggling ring.
Please understand, sir, that I have to ask such questions.
I would like to tell you that if Theng Bunma does something, he never answers questions about it inaccurately. If I say I will shoot you, I'll really shoot you! Like I shot the plane's wheel. I really shot it.... I shot the plane's tire, I think wrongly, in anger.
Let's move on.... How would you describe the country's economy? Is it doing well, and where could it be better?
A better economy in Cambodia depends on both Prime Ministers. Both of them have to make investors believe that Cambodia will not go to war. If your two Prime Ministers only talk about fighting, fighting, fighting every day, how can investors trust Cambodia?... Please, national leaders, don't think only of your personal power! Stop arguing with each other!...[Moreover] Cambodian newspapers write nonsense. They only curse each other so that they can sell lots of newspapers. When the papers say bad things about Cambodia, they associate the problems with me so that investors will think Cambodia is terrible. All right, I would like to say goodbye! I must leave and live abroad! I can live everywhere. I can live in France and also in America. Who says I can't stay in America?!
First Prime Minister [Norodom] Ranariddh quoted a report that you can't go there because you're linked to narcotics.
Please, let him produce the evidence.... I would like to inform him clearly that I say [he] is my leader. If I smuggle drugs, why don't you arrest me, since you know I'm involved in drugs? Or don't I give you enough money?