Cambodian oil: the dream that refuses to die

Sector beset by delays and corruption now pins its hopes on debt-crippled energy firm.

Block A — Cambodia’s most promising oil concession — is the dream that refuses to die. The concession’s Apsara field, if fully tapped, would help diversify an economy heavily reliant on garment exports — and increasingly Chinese investment.

Like many of its neighbors in Southeast Asia, Cambodia has received billions in investments and loans linked to Beijing’s Belt and Road infrastructure push. Oil exports could go some way toward putting the country on stronger financial footing, including chipping away at a 12% current-account deficit. And once a long-delayed refinery is built, that may also ease imports of petroleum products.

It has been a long road. Cambodia’s would-be oil sector has been beset by decades of setbacks as companies ranging from U.S. giant Chevron to Thailand’s PTT, PetroVietnam and China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC) have come and gone.

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