Expressway to Laos Is News To Ministry

Two companies have signed a formal agreement to build a $5 billion, 522 km expressway from Phnom Penh to the Laotian border, according to a government news release, but a spokesman at the Transport Ministry said he could not confirm the report.

Malaysian firm Mahdi Holdings Investment has partnered with local firm Globalcam Project Development to start construction later this year on the expressway, according to state-run Agence Kampuchea Press.

The two signed a memorandum of understanding on Monday, according to a Tuesday release.

Transport Ministry spokesman Va Sim Soriya said on Wednesday he did not know about the two companies’ involvement or the agreement because nothing had been sent to the ministry.

“We can’t confirm it,” he said, adding that many private companies had studied building expressways in the country over the past two years but often did not inform the ministry.

Mahdi Holdings Investment could not be reached for comment. A website with the same domain name as the firm only has one page and no information about the firm, while multiple calls to a phone number in Kuala Lumpur on a website claiming to be that of Mahdi’s parent company, Mahdi Holdings Sdn Bhd, went unanswered on Wednesday.

Representatives of the Phnom Pehn-based Globalcam also could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Mr. Sim Soriya said that he was aware of two other expressways in the planning stages—one from the capital to Sihanoukville and the other from Phnom Penh to Svay Rieng province’s Bavet City—but construction had not yet begun on either.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Byrne)

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