Cambodia’s airport dreams stall as Chinese money dries up

Residents say they've been pushed off land to make way for big-ticket projects.

For years, an airport has been slated for construction in Cambodia’s Mondulkiri province, but all that exists are concrete fence posts across the razed farmlands of an indigenous community, cleared for a runway that may never get built.

Remote Mondulkiri was an odd choice for a multimillion-dollar new airport, observers say. Bordering Vietnam, the region is one of Cambodia’s most sparsely populated, with a provincial capital of just over 13,000 residents, and few tourist draws. Making matters worse, a key Chinese funder has pulled out of the project, first announced in 2019.

The unfinished site is just one of several Cambodian airports in various stages of halting development and with questionable economic viability, especially after Chinese investors walked away in recent years and tourism has struggled to return to pre-pandemic levels. As these projects inch forward, local communities say they have been pushed off their land to make way for construction.

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