China has agreed to provide several million dollars in an interest-free loan to build resettlement houses for squatters who occupy the old Sports City Complex in Phnom Penh, officials said Monday.
The loan will also help to restore the complex built by the Chinese government in the 1960s, according to an agreement signed by both governments early last week.
The agreement comes weeks before the visit of Chinese President Jiang Zemin, who is scheduled to arrive Nov 13 for a two-day stay.
Wang Dian Jun, first secretary for the Chinese Embassy, said the loan would enable Cambodia to build 376 wooden houses at Phnom Penh Thmei, one of the city’s new development areas, west of the Royal University of Phnom Penh.
The athletic facility, also called Borei Kila, was used by athletes but turned into a home for squatters after decades of civil war.
The Sports City Complex, located in the TV 5 compound north of the Olympic Stadium, will be rehabilitated for another city development plan, Wang said.
Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara applauded the Chinese government’s commitment for the city’s economic development.
“I really appreciate the idea that China will help build houses for [squatters] in a different place from the complex,” the governor said. “They are also poor civil servants. I’m working on the best way to relocate them.”
No officials, however, could say how much money will be needed for the projects. Wang estimated the restoration project would start within this year.
China is one of the top unilateral donors in Cambodia and the country’s leaders have worked to court Beijing in recent years. China is also one of the top five foreign investors here.
The Democratic Front of Khmer Students and Intellectuals, which plans to demonstrate against Jiang and China’s influence in Cambodia, said the government should not make any high-interest loan agreements with Jiang.
Ministry of Interior officials plan to have 1,000 police officers on duty to provide security for the visit.