“This area’s been swallowed up by China. That, too,” a shopkeeper said while pointing toward Ream Naval Base in Sihanoukville in late July.
The Cambodian city, once a sleepy beach getaway, has transformed into a bustling hub for casinos and hotels in recent years as Prime Minister Hun Sen rolls out the red carpet for Chinese investment. But China’s growing clout there — in particular, Beijing’s decision to fund the expansion of the Ream base — has caused alarm both in the U.S. and among the city’s locals.
A Cambodian soldier stopped this reporter’s car as it approached the base. A palpable tension gripped Ream, unlike during previous trips there.