Cambodia’s urban goals run into challenge of building Angkor Wat 2.0

It wants to build 'smart' and 'liveable' cities to draw investment, talent and boost the economy, but lacks funds and coherent strategy.

Cambodia is building both “smart” cities and “liveable” cities under a mishmash of well-meaning plans that aim to attract investment and talent, create new production and service ecosystems, and develop supply chains. There is no shortage of good advice, but funds and a coherent strategy are scarce.

Tales of constructing Cambodian cities started about 10 years ago when the Cambodian authorities launched a futuristic “Samdech Techo Hun Sen Dragon City”, named after Prime Minister Hun Sen’s royal title and zodiac sign. They called for US$80 billion in investment to build the new capital which consisted of a combination of Angkor Wat-like structures ringed by water bodies and traditional Chinese architecture.

The Dragon City, which was supposed to have stood on a 35,000-hectare urban sprawl on the eastern bank of the Tonle Sap River that flows through Phnom Penh, has seen some progress. The Cambodian government had originally hoped that Chinese state and private investments would power the project whose brochure featured Chinese President Xi Jinping and Mr Hun Sen flanking its Angkor-style spires.

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