Cambodia
Page creation 18/06/2011, revision 05/07/2015
All rights reserved DSinAsia 2006-2016, except otherwise indicated
The Laquemant-
Laquemant team and its
DS19, winner of the 3rd
Rally of Cambodia, in front
of the "SKMA" garage,
belonging to the Citroen
agent in Phnom-Pehn, in
1960. Nice and intriguing
picture... (in "Les Citroën
du monde", ed. E.T.A.I.).
So what do we know about
this "SKMA" garage ?
Local resident and car
enthusiast Tom
Windelinckx kindly sent
these interesting pictures
of former shophouses on
Preah Vihear Street
(Street 82) in Phnom
Penh, taken back in 2007,
still showing traces of
retro "Citroen" signs.
Compare with the picture
above; this is without
doubt the same place.
Tom checked out again
recently, but two out of the
three signs are now
covered with paint.
SKMA stood for "Société Khmère de
Montage Automobile", a venture started by
Citroen's agent in Cambodia, Georges
Desrues, in order to assemble locally a
box-van version of the 2CV. Operations
started in 1958 in Sihanoukville, the port
city in the South of the country, but did not
seem to have met with huge success, in
spite of the sale of fifty cars to China in
1959; it was closed in 1962.
These pictures show different versions of the
2CV assembled in Cambodia, including a
pick-up covered by a canvas. They can be
found on several web pages,
for example
this one on Citroenet (English):
Very little information remains about
Citroen's activities in Cambodia in those
days. Tom explains that during the Khmers
Rouges regime, most if not all cars were
destroyed, and very few classic cars can be
seen in the country today. As far as former
Citroen employees in the region could tell
me, the country was certainly fit for sales of
2CV-type "off-road" vehicles, but definitely
not for the DS.
These two last documents show young
salesman Jacques Paris in Cambodia
around 1956 or 1957, before he was sent by
Georges Desrues to Bangkok
(see          ).
The picture above is particularly interesting.
It looks like an exhibition or a trade fair of
some kind; in the setup on his side, the road
sign indicates Bokor, a hill station not far
from Sihanoukville; on the table in front of
him, a catalog or a poster of the newly
unveiled DS19 (docs. Thitisak Hannoi).
http://www.citroenet.org.uk/foreign/cambo
dia/cambodia.html
here
Update ! (March 2014)
More photos of SKMA's
2CV venture: left and below
left, the inauguration of the
assembly plant by then
Prince Norodom
Sihanouk, and the first
shipment of cars "for
export", maybe to China
("Le Cambodge en
images", 1960). Below,
Queen Sisowath
Kossamak, Sihanouk's
mother, trying the new
"Citronette", early 1960.     
Update ! (July 2015) A few words about the history
of Citroen in Cambodia before the SKMA.

In 1925, Emile Bainier, who had started to import
Citroens in Saigon as early as 1919
(see         ), put two
3-seater Citroen taxis in Phnom Penh, "on a trial basis".
A 1929 advertising by his company, the "Etablissements
Bainier d'Indochine", shows a subsidiary in Phnom Penh;
"rue Gallieni" (Street 136 today) is mentioned as the
address in another document, dated 1933.
But Bainier lost the Citroen representation rights in
Indochina in 1933; one of its directors, Georges Desrues,
decided to try his chance in Cambodia. In 1937 he is
mentioned as the owner of a "Citroen garage" on 2, rue
Philastre in Phnom Penh. The 15CV is introduced in
1939, during a ceremony held at the garage celebrating
the 1000th car sold in the country, undoubtedly an
indication of relative success.

In 1952 the "Etablissements Georges Desrues" is one
of Citroen's exclusive agents in Indochina, on "2 to 6 rue
Philastre". Desrues later started the SKMA, probably in
order to assemble the 2CV.
here
Above: the "Etablissements Bainier
d'Indochine" have started to expand
outside of Saigon, with subsidiaries
in Hanoi and Phnom Penh
("Extrême-Asie", October 1929).
Left: undated photo of a Traction in a
Phnom Penh street.
Below: Prince Sisowath Sirik Matak with
a Traction.
Left: a letter
adressed in 1948  
by the "Garage
Citroen" (also
representing
Chevrolet) to
Madame Desrues
in Paris.  I have
not (yet !) been able
to trace back Mr
and Mrs Desrues'
descendants
unfortunately.
The Citroen
network in
French
Indochina (i.e.,
before 1954).
The "Etablissements
Georges
Desrues" was
an agent; while
the SAEO in
Saigon had
the rank of
subsidiary,
Citroen's only
one in the
region (doc.
J.-C. Toudy).