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Disney theme park in Malaysia

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Tokyo/Putrajaya (Reuters): Malaysia is in talks to set up a Disney theme park in southern Johor state, as it battles neighbour Singapore to be a major tourist hub. Government officials have held talks with executives from Oriental Land Co, Ltd, a Japanese firm that operates Tokyo Disneyland, to run a similar park in Malaysia, The Edge financial weekly reported at the weekend, citing sources.

''We are exploring all options because in the southern corridor development we want it to be comprehensive, we want it to be an attractive region,'' Economic Planning Minister Effendi Norwawi told reporters today. ''So it will include theme parks and other attractions, so we are hoping to get Disney, but we are discussing with several other parties to see which is the most realisable option.'' ''Yes, we have been in discussions with Tokyo and also with Disney in the US,'' he added, without giving further details.

Japan's Oriental Land confirmed that it had done some research in Johor on a possible leisure business, but said the project was not related to Disney. ''We are only a Disney licensee. We have no rights to set up a Disney park nor provide advice on its operations,'' said an Oriental Land spokesman. The Japanese company late last year did research to see if a leisure business was possible on request from the Malaysian government, he said. No decision has been made following the research, he added. The Japanese company has conducted such research in several countries in the past, he said.

Malaysia is keen to develop Johor state, which is separated by a thin strip of water from Singapore, which is itself chasing the tourist dollar by developing a casino industry. The theme park could occupy 2,000 acres in Nusajaya, part of a 23,000 acre township being developed by state-controlled UEM World Bhd,. The Edge said. Tokyo Disneyland is one of Asia's top tourist sites and, with the adjacent DisneySea, draws 25 million visitors a year.

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