Cambodia to divert Mekong trade via China-built canal, vexing Vietnam

Planned Phnom Penh-coast link raises alarms amid regional influence tussle.

From his house on the banks of the Mekong River, an hour from Phnom Penh, Mao Sarin can watch ships laden with containers chug by on their way to Vietnam and the giant river delta.


If the government of newly installed Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Manet follows through on plans, future shipments could travel along a $1.7 billion, Chinese-funded canal — a project that would eliminate Sarin’s tin-roofed home. The Funan Techo canal would directly connect Phnom Penh with Cambodian ports on the Gulf of Thailand, bypassing Vietnam’s traditional hold on the mouth of one of Asia’s biggest waterways.

“I have seen the development team come here to take measurements almost 20 times,” said Sarin, a motorcycle-taxi driver and ex-soldier who has lived beside the river for more than three decades. “We are waiting in suspense.”

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