New Siem Reap Airport Construction Ordered, But Details Sparse

The government agency that oversees the country’s airports is set to create a committee to assess the redevelopment of Siem Reap’s international airport, signaling the potential end of Cambodia Airports’ current monopoly.

In a Tuesday memo issued by Mao Havannal, secretary of state for the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, the agency said the new committee would assess the potential challenges of replacing the airport.

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Prime Minister Hun Sen, left, shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping before a meeting in Beijing in November 2014. (Reuters)

Keo Sivorn, spokesman for the aviation secretary, said he did not know crucial details of the project, such as when construction might begin, but characterized the committee’s establishment as a step toward governmental approval for a new airport.

The Council for the Development of Cambodia, which approves foreign investment, received an application for the project from a Chinese company, which has not been publicly identified, Mr. Sivorn said.

The council did not respond to requests for comment.

The construction bid follows Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Cambodia in October, during which he showered Prime Minister Hun Sen with economic development agreements. Among Mr. Xi’s offerings was a pledge to support or finance improvements to Siem Reap’s airport.

Cambodia Airports, owned by French construction giant Vinci Group, is contracted to operate the country’s three international airports—the other two are in Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville—until 2040. Under the deal, the government can terminate the agreement early as long as Cambodia Airports is properly compensated.

Khek Norinda, communications director for Cambodia Airports, said via email that the future of the Siem Reap airport is of “mutual concern” for his company and the government.

“We are confident that the dialogue with Cambodian authorities will be constructive, reflecting the solid and successful partnership between both parties since 1995,” he wrote.

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