The government has leased six islands off Kampot province and Sihanoukville municipality to private companies who plan to develop multi-million-dollar tourism resorts, according to a statement on Monday from the Council for the Development of Cambodia.
The agreements in principle to lease the islands to six little-known companies were signed Friday by Minister for Commerce Cham Prasidh, who is also Vice President of the CDC. The companies will invest a total of $627 million to develop the islands, according to the statement.
The companies leasing islands off Sihanoukville are DG Cambodia Ltd, who will invest in Koh Thas Island; the Koh Takeav firm, which is investing in Takeav island; and Brocon Investment Co Ltd, which is leasing both Aun and Bang islands and Sea Snake Investment Group Ltd for Koh Dekkuol. Vimean Seila and Monorom Akphiwat Thoamcheat Co Ltd signed contracts to lease Koh Sas island off Kampot.
The CDC provided no further details on the companies involved in the deal, how long a period the leases were for, or how much the leases were worth to the government.
The companies have one year to prepare development plans that the CDC must then approve. Part of the conditions under which the leases were signed, according to the CDC statement, was that the companies “preserve and improve the natural forests and fisheries environments in the areas concerned.”
“The companies must implement the plans once approved. If not the government will invalidate the investment contracts,” according to the statement.
“CDC is proud of plans that truly benefit the country because the investment is in eco-tourism and [the developments] will preserve and improve the environment,” it added.
Cham Prasidh could not be reached for comment on Monday, and CDC Secretary-General Sok Chenda declined to comment when contacted by a reporter.
In September, Koh Pos, off Sihanoukville, was leased to a Russian firm along with Hawai beach. Koh Pos Development Co Ltd was to invest $300 million on the new development, which was to include a five-star hotel, a business center and a bridge connecting the island to the mainland.
In February, a Malaysian firm, KSKW, was reported to have obtained the lease to Takeav island near Sihanoukville, which is also mentioned in the CDC statement as having been leased to a firm named Koh Takeav.
It was unclear Monday whether there was a public and competitive bidding process for the six islands, and relevant officials could not be contacted for comment.
SRP lawmaker Yim Sovann said he welcomed such investment only if there was a public bidding process offering equal chances to other investors.
“There must be a more transparent bidding process when it comes to leasing state land,” he said.
The CDC statement said the Ministry of Commerce had worked hard on the projects to ensure that all sides would benefit.
“There were many inter-ministerial meetings and other development partners. It took many months to come up with a contract,” the CDC statement said.