by Nguon Sovan
PHNOM PENH, Oct. 4 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia registered steady growth in international tourist arrivals in the first nine months of the year although the political dispute between the ruling and opposition parties over contested elections in July remains unsolved, officials said Thursday.
Tith Chantha, secretary of state at the Ministry of Tourism, said the country attracted more than 3 million foreign tourists in the first nine months of the year, up around 19 percent year-on- year.
"We expect to greet 4.2 million tourists in the whole year of 2013," he said.
Kong Sopheareak, chief of the ministry's Planning and Statistics Department, said the political trouble in recent months has slight impact on the tourism industry.
"The growth is steadily up even in the election month in July and post-poll conflict," he told Xinhua. "Foreign tourists have full trust in Cambodian security and political stability."
He said that most tourists to Cambodia are from Vietnam, South Korea, China, Laos and Thailand.
Ang Kim Eang, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, which represents 220 tour and travel operators, said he did not see any decline in tourist arrivals due to the country's political impasse.
"Foreign visitors had come to Cambodia as usual in the past few months, there was no any trip cancellation," he told Xinhua. "But some Vietnamese tourists had called off their trips to Cambodia in August after the election due to a concern over personal security. "
During the July 28 elections in Cambodia, opposition supporters had tried to ban either Vietnamese or ethnic Vietnamese born in Cambodia from voting, claiming that they were illegal immigrants.
"Now, everything has returned to normal," Ang Kim Eang said.
The ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) of long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) of long-time opposition leader Sam Rainsy have been locked in a political impasse since the elections.
The CNRP did not recognize the election results that gave victory to the CPP and had launched a series of mass demonstrations in the capital against the results.
However, the Cambodian parliament, formed by the ruling party's 68 lawmakers, on Sept. 24 voted for the formation of a new government under the leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen even though the opposition's 55 legislators boycotted the session.
Hun Sen said that his newly-formed government was "legitimate" since King Norodom Sihamoni had already given endorsement.
CNRP spokesman Yem Ponharith told Xinhua early this week that the party would continue to boycott the parliament if a poll inquiry committee was still not formed and the government still ignored the party's request for serious reforms on the election council, anti-corruption unit, judicial system, and land and forest management.
He said the CNRP would hold two mass rallies this month. One will be on Oct. 6 at the capital's Freedom Park and the other on Oct. 23 at the same place in order to call for United Nations intervention in the country's political crisis after the disputed elections.